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The changing nature of childhood

The changing nature of childhood

The most valued childhood experiences of people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s are things that the current generation of kids are far less likely to know.

What stands out is that people are nostalgic for a youthful sense of independence, connectedness, and creativity that is less common in the 21st century.

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American children have less independence and autonomy today.

  • Parents have become more concerned with safety.
  • Parents run the risk of being charged with neglect for letting children walk unsupervised.
  • Some parents usher their children from one structured activity to the next, leaving little time to play, experiment, and make mistakes.

Kids who have autonomy and independence are less likely to be anxious. They are more likely to grow into self-sufficient adults.

A childhood privilege was spending regular time with parents and access to meaningful interactions with other family members, especially grandparents.

Close grandparent-child relationships have significant mental health benefits for both children and grandparents.

Many people feel that time for reading was a major privilege of their childhood, where they had access to thousands of books from libraries, bookstores, or books passed along.

Reading is good for children. It makes them more literate, better at math, more academically successful. Yet, the number of children who never read for pleasure has tripled since 1984.

45% of teens say they are online on a "near-constant" basis. Three years ago, 24% of teens went online "almost constantly."

Gratitude for a childhood free of social media is now a common thread. Technology habits of today's children come with an increased risk of isolation, depression and other mental health issues. The more hours a day teens spend in front of screens, the less satisfied they are.

It is only as adults that we are able to recognize all the factors that made us into who we are today.

A healthy childhood is a privilege. But even children who do grow up in a stable environment may not have the kind of adventurous, family-oriented, independent childhood that should be the norm. Maybe it's time for a change.

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A Child's Mental Health

Various studies conducted in the U.S. population indicate growing anxiety towards a possibly grim future. Political turmoil, gun violence, global plagues, changing power structure and a widening rich-poor divide make us believe in a future that is more stressful and complicated than the present.

Our children are the most vulnerable. Depression cases among the young are climbing since the 90s. Suicidal cases among 10 to 24-year-olds have risen 56 per cent from 2007 to 2017.

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IDEAS

  • In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud gave childhood amnesia its name. The most commonly accepted explanation for childhood amnesia was that children couldn't form stable memories until age 7 - even though evidence for this idea was lacking.
  • In the late 1980s, experiments revealed that children three and younger keep their memories, although it is limited. At 6 months of age, infants' memories last for a day, and by age 2, for a year. At around age 6, children begin to forget many of their earliest memories.
Clutter across generations and cultures

Victorians lived in houses that were overflowing with artsy items and other kinds of things. So clutter is not entirely an American notion, but modern Americans cultivate its presence in ways that set them apart.

Yes, past generations used to accumulate a lot of material things, but the process would take over a lifetime and they would value it.