For anyone much over about 50, today’s childhood experience appears to be almost incomprehensible.
Have you seen such changes? Do you believe that they are for the better or worse? Are youngsters today better off in terms of their recreational experiences than you were in your youth?
Let’s explore some of the issues and see just how much you remember from your own childhood days!
The garden, yard, street or countryside
One of the biggest changes senior people comment on today is how 21st century youngsters play –or perhaps don’t!
For most people who were children in the 1940s, 50s or 60s, their backyard, garden, street or surrounding countryside were where they spent the bulk of their play time. Almost all of us can remember the great emphasis in those days on group activities in the sense of playtime.
Different parts of Australia may have had different terms for the games but we all remember the various joys of chases, skipping, football, cricket, rugby, hide and seek or pretend battles etc. Whether we lived in urban, suburban or country areas, it was largely unthinkable to pass our recreational time other than in the company of other kids of roughly our own age.
Today, those home-made swings, skipping ropes and pieces of wood that acted as cricket bats have largely disappeared. It’s perhaps stating the obvious but at face value most children today seem to be relatively uninterested in each other’s company other than through the virtual world of electronics.
Little effort now appears to be invested in physical creativity and the cooperative effort needed to make a success of things such as climbing frames, karts, impromptu sports and imaginary houses etc.
Is that a good or bad thing?
People are still arguing furiously about this but there does seem to be a growing body of professional opinion which suggests that younger people’s social interaction and social engagement skills are being put at risk by these changes. That’s something that may not serve them well in later life when they need to get out there and engage with the real world.
Do you remember the “thunderbox” or dunny?
Can you recall when the bath or shower was something that was planned in on a “now and then if you’re dirty” basis?
Today such things are now largely the stuff of history. Most would agree that the world is better for the provision of what we today consider to be essential modern conveniences.
Even so, many people who had to use a “thunderbox” kept it spotlessly clean and highly functional. True, it wasn’t always convenient but it did require a certain degree of self-discipline in order to try and make best use of it!
Many households also expected the kids to play a role in helping to keep it clean and from a relatively early age. These responsibilities have now largely disappeared and many younger people rely entirely and exclusively on their parents to keep their hygiene facilities clean and in full working order.
Is that good for their future attitude to shared tasks?
Every responsible parent wants to protect their children from harm.
However, 50 years ago most parents fatalistically accepted that their kids were going to get a variety of scratches, cuts, bruises, bumps and knocks, as part of their daily play routines. They accepted that the world is not a risk-free place and that kids had to learn a few sometimes painful lessons of life as the price of actively engaging with the world around them.
Today, that is largely gone and in almost all walks of life our children are protected to the extent that in some cases, they’re almost totally insulated from the outside world. That process is even replicated in schools, where childhood games that would have been considered “normal” and “healthy” in the 1950s, are now banned as being “too risky” in terms of potential injury.
Again, this trend is highly controversial. For example, some medical professionals argue that the full development of a healthy immune system depends in part upon our bodies being exposed to a range of challenges through minor injuries and infections that come about due to the realities of engaging with nature in our childhood.
It’s perfectly normal for senior citizens to look back on their childhood and conclude that things have changed for the worse in terms of kids today.
Even so, our society is being transformed by modern technology and social cultures that are having a profound impact on the way kids grow up in the 21st century. The changes, for example, in children’s play patterns over the last 35 years are probably greater than all those that took place over the 150 years before that.
Whether we really understand what the changes will mean for future generations is questionable. It’s something worthy of more serious study.