I know. I know. You see a title like that and instantly your mind starts thinking that I’m being childish and that I have no possible idea what I’m talking about. “Childhood wasn’t destroyed by the children of the 80’s and 90’s” or maybe “Children have it so easy now”. If you’re of that mindset, I’m guessing you don’t have children or have never really been around children.
Let me convince you how childhood as we knew it is now dead and gone. I was born in 1981 and raised on the streets of Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. I looked white, was half Mexican, and raised around minorities all over my neighborhood. I played on the streets for hours without ever checking in with my parents. I would take off and head to the 7-11 a few blocks over without so much as a peep. We would play tackle football in the street or we would ride our bicycles as far as our little bodies would take us. I always made it back home in one piece. My parents just wanted to make sure I was having fun and not getting bullied by the neighborhood kids. I didn’t sit inside playing video games…but if I had wanted to, I could’ve played Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Kid Icarus, Tecmo Bowl, Sonic the Hedgehog, or so many other classic titles. I did play video games. Nobody convinced me to go outside. I just went. It’s where my friends were. It’s what we did without second thoughts.
Today…and I am guilty of this as well; would never ever ever ever ever let my children ride their bikes across Oak Cliff without a trusted adult with them. There is no way that I would ever allow them to walk to the local store alone. As far as video games, they play childish affairs such as Roblox or Minecraft and they would rather play said games all day because of my inability to allow them to freely roam the neighborhood. While they see violence and death in these games, it’s already minimal to the type and amount of death that I saw in video games 26 years ago.
I write this not because of how I realize that I’m a stuffy parent but because of an article in the latest Game Informer magazine, issue 281. The article is written by a father of a young toddler that is interested in video games. He talks about how he doesn’t want his daughter to see Mario die or Yarny from Unraveled to drown because he didn’t jump far enough to clear the little body of water because then she asks too many questions. He also talked about how Minecraft is a scary game for young children because of Creepers and spiders. I was blown away. I have raised three children that are now older than Andrew Reiner’s one daughter is and I have never limited their abilities to play what they desire. If my 8 year old son wants to play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, or Fallout, my first thought is “Sure kid…just don’t suck.” If my 7 year old daughter wants to play Minecraft, Red Dead Redemption (because of the horses), or a racing game…I don’t even have to question why or how much violence she’ll see. My 3 year old has just recently started to play video games although she has always expressed an interest in learning how and holding the spare controller while someone else is playing. She recently played a game of Left 4 Dead 2 with me.
I tell you this to give you some background. I have allowed my children to sit idly in the den playing video games instead of giving them an outside life. Now with that said, I do live in a swampy area where mosquitoes grow to the size of hummingbirds and I’ve seen a group of the bastards take down a bat mid-flight. These local mosquitoes don’t play around…they want blood and they are willing to take on anything and everything to get it. So yes…I hate it when my children go outside because then I have to smother them in bug spray and hope that today’s mosquitoes aren’t brave enough to bite at my kid’s legs through the smell and taste of Off!. That’s why it became so easy for me to allow my children to sit inside for hours at a time.
Going back to Mr. Reiner’s complaints with video games and how console games just aren’t meant for toddlers because Snoopy’s Grand Adventure had a Peppermint Patty head floating while spitting baseballs at the player’s character or because a a LEGO video game had violence and the characters fell into chunks of blocks upon their death. I hate to inform Mr. Reiner but video games have always been like this. Were your parents so terrible at what they did while you were growing up that they didn’t explain that Mario had 3 lives and one of those lives could be snuffed out by touching a turtle? Or that Zelda was legitimately being hunted on screen by every last monster and that you had to kill them with swords, bow and arrows, or a boomerang? Surely your parents weren’t such uptight pansies to not let you play any such game. Considering he writes for Game Informer, I would almost guarantee that he found his love for video games at a very young age.
Now…I guarantee based on his views on video games that he’s just as uptight about letting his daughter eventually walk the streets with her friends to go to someone else’s house or to the Burger King when she’s older. With that information and what I had previously told you about how I wouldn’t let my children run the streets either…in less than 20 years, we have gone from parents that wanted their children to see the world to where those children are now the parents and we are so worried about what our children will see that we don’t want them, or allow them to take chances.
I don’t think parents did it alone though. Our media has done a great job of telling us that our children will be kidnapped, raped, beaten, or killed if we allow them to have five unsupervised minutes. This is contradictory of what the stats actually show though. Rape, murder, violent crimes, kidnapping, and gun crimes are all at almost historic lows for our country. I can’t say whether or not it’s because children just don’t have the same care free lifestyle that we had 30 years ago and are more sheltered or if it’s just because people are being caught quicker and are not able to terrorize the streets very long now before getting put in jail. I have no answers and I won’t make this a political piece. It’s just that I want you to know that you can look up specific crime rates through the years and find lots of valuable websites that prove that we have less to fear overall than our parents did. Kidnapping isn’t happening very much to children anymore. It’s happening to young adults 17-24 years of age at a much higher rate.
I know with every fiber of my body that the SJWs of today would call Child Protective Services if I did let my children go outside alone though. I know that because 5 years ago, when my niece was living with us, she had to get off the bus and stay at the house alone for a whopping 15 minutes one day and then she went to school and told her teacher that she was scared of being alone again…next thing we know, a Sheriff is at the house and so is a director from CPS. She was home for 15 minutes while I was driving back to the house. 15 minutes. I don’t know if you understand that. It’s not even the length of a tv show. And I had made her a sandwich and laid her out an apple and a juice pack in case I didn’t make it home in time. But this is all an argument for a different day.
I didn’t write this to blast Andrew Reiner or how tight he must be when he sees his daughter pick out a Skylander game to play instead of Zoo Tycoon. I wrote this because it’s important to note that yes, we did ride our big wheels towards ramps while not wearing helmets and drank as much caffeinated sodas as possible while eating the worst junk food ever…and yes, we have basically taken all of that away from children. We tell them to wear helmets and we don’t let them race their bikes towards ramps or curbs anymore to get air…and we tell them to take a nutri-grain bar for a snack instead of letting them get chili cheese Doritos with 44 oz Slurpees and the biggest bag of Twizzlers they can find.
This isn’t about video games at its core. It’s about how we have ruined childhood by keeping a tight grip on our kids and being afraid of them getting hurt or having sore tummies and childhood diabetes, or having to see animated violence. We grew up on Looney Tunes, junk food, Evil Knievel-esque stunts, jumping out of trees from 20 feet high, and the freedom to explore. My children watch the drivel on Nickelodeon like Steven Universe, Adventures of Gumball, etc. They still eat junk food and would all day if I let them but now I tell them to get an apple or an orange first and I don’t let them drink soda all day, every day. They can’t even figure out how to climb trees, let alone be brave enough to jump out. And their type of exploration is going outside to catch frogs and butterflies right by the back door.
Who should I blame? Parents? Media? Government? I don’t know. What I do know is that at 18, our grandfathers were going to war, our fathers were protesting war, and we were still living in our childhood bedrooms. Can you imagine how much more sissified our children will be at 18? It’s an important analysis that I could delve deeper into at a later time. Obviously nobody has the correct answer as to how much over-parenting is too much…or how much freedom to be a child is too much freedom. I think it’s case by case but we as an entire generation have watched the children want more, do less, and achieve even less. Maybe we need to turn the tide.