“Kids These Days:” The Problems with iGen, The Kids Who are Coming. Are They the Problem, or are WE?
The other afternoon I was listening to the NPR broadcast Here and Now, wherein co-host Jeremy Hobson was hosting Dr. Jean Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.
The program touched on some of the key issues facing this upcoming generation, which, as a result of many who have absentee parents (on the iPhones and devices) or helicopter begettors, grew up on iPhones themselves (the handy babysitter), and as a result, in part, are anxious, isolated, and unhappy. Depression, self-harm and cutting are common. Twenge points out the increasing need for mental health resources at schools.
Yeah. About that mental health support.
Yesterday I heard another story on my local NPR station that our Colorado schools have in some cases but one counselor for 500 students. That’s defined as overwhelm. Forgive me but why on earth would we want to provide anything other than guns for our kids when they need a safe place to learn?
Let’s send six-year-old Peter to school packing his pistol with his PBJ, why don’t we? Famm’y values. Right. I’m with this guy: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/florida-school-shooting-gun-control-arm-children-students-trump-america-national-rifle-association-a8212631.html.
What we really need is an army of Billy Bobs with AK-47s and assault rifles. Why don’t we arm the teachers with a few of those surplus tanks that the Pentagon is giving to the Mayberry Police Force? (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180418/14292139659/two-man-police-department-acquires-1-million-military-gear.shtml- it’s all over the country now.) Don’t jaywalk in a one-light town, folks, you could be obliterated by an ICBM. After all, gramps and his walker could be a terrorist.
Emotions terrify iGeners- as they always do for kids, especially teens, but there is nowhere to work that out. Certainly not at home, when the adults are as addicted to their devices (or something else) as they are. Where does a kid go? These days, where does anyone go, kid or not, when our counselors are sneaking peeks at their iPhones during sessions where they’re paid $200 an hour to listen to us?
To hear the interview, please go to http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/10/22/generation-z-igeneration-definition
I put the biggest part of the blame for this squarely on the parents. Let me be clear- I’m not a parent myself. However, like all of us, I had a pair. They had their issues, including mental health problems and alcoholism. Most of us have some kind of legitimate complaint about the emotional trash heaped upon us by those who gave us life. By the same token, that trash gives us work to do. A direction to take. As we learn to handle the hurts that our progenitors provided us with, we can then — should we choose- be better parents, guardians and mentors ourselves.
There’s no question that this is in part one of the reasons for the rapid rise in emotional support animals, about which I have written separately. That’s a bad answer to a vicious cycle. As more parents succumb to thumb-sucking their iPhones, they push off their critically-necessary work as parents to the easy fix- another iPhone- then get their kid a rescue animal to replace the demanding work of parenting. Loving. Dealing with kid conflict. Their own inadequacies. That’s precisely what parenting is. By definition it’s a series of constant struggles, failures, celebrations, losses, gains. It’s a battleground of learning our limitations and discovering our gifts through our kids.
A great many parents push off their responsibilities to educators, who not only aren’t allowed to touch their kids (god HELP us that they might HUG our child who desperately needs one) and whose class size is effectively a stadium full of Ritalin-powered, sugar-addicted hellions, but they are expected to imbue fundamental manners and values. Values which may nor may not happen to agree with Mom and Dad’s or the guardians, which is a whole other issue entirely.
Is this all parents? Of course not. Is this all our kids in the iGeneration? Of course not. But these issues do touch far too many of them, of us, and our collective future.
What troubles me is the truncated childhood that our kids are experiencing.
Too many parents are missing their kids childhoods entirely.
In the delightful Pixar film The Incredibles, Elastagirl chides her husband for not being around as the kids are growing up. He’s off engaging in escapism about the good old days with his buddy Frozone. At least that imaginary family isn’t walking around umbilically attached to their devices. They sit at dinner, talk, argue, fight, laugh, break plates and hash it out. This is how we learn to be humans. My family sat at the dinner table. Yes, we fought. Boy did we. But we talked and discussed and argued and engaged with each other.
What troubles me more is that given that this generation will make up a third of our population by the year 2020, that means that a huge crop of kids is possibly going to show up wickedly unhappy, horrifically unprepared, and very likely, on drugs. (Just like many of their parents, but I digress)
Especially legal drugs. The pharmaceutical industry is licking their chops, and targeting our kids (it’s called the pediatric market, thank you) for toxic chemicals, when what they really need, and badly, is love. Attention. Care. Reinforcement. A hug once in a while instead of being pointed to your computer on the dining room table, or handed a device to keep quiet.
Instead, here’s the increasingly effective stealth approach: https://www.statnews.com/2016/06/02/drug-marketing-kids/
This is precisely the same way that the tobacco industry targeted teens- and younger- to get them smoking young (and now vaping young which has its own set of evil side effects, please see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/health/vaping-ecigarettes-addiction-teen.html.
Get ’em hooked young. Profits over people. No matter what the cost. Your kids are no more to these corporations than an umbilical cord to your, and their future, wallets. Addicted kids mean addicted adults, and addicted adults are very, very easy to manipulate, maneuver, and monetize.
While you and I are increasingly hooked on iPhones, opioids, legal pharmaceuticals, Netflicks reruns and mindless entertainment, our kids and our future belong to whichever corporation can hijack them as early as possible. You can count on the fact that the best and the brightest are having intense marketing meetings to accomplish just that. Just follow the money. Who gains when our kids lose their freedoms, their health, their independence from drugs, tobacco, alcohol, opioids? Who gains when kids can’t shut down the ad-driven drivel from their devices? Who gains when that happens to us?
The shareholders. The fat cats who get obscene salaries even when their corporations go belly up.
When I was a kid, we had candy cigarettes. Worked, too. My parents smoked. I followed their example. Smoked hard for three years. But I was able to quit.
For a take on this please see https://domain.me/kids-and-advertising/
What saddened me the most was Twenge’s comment that these iGen kids, as they near 18, are far more terrified about their personal security than anything else. Given gun violence, no wonder. Given our preoccupation with our precious, so-called Second Amendment rights. Look, who gives a crap about how the kids feel about it, after all, they’re not adults yet, what to do they know?
I’ll tell you what too many of them know already: what it’s like to live in and on a battlefield surrounded by dead bodies. Look, I’m ex-military. Many of today’s kids have seen more blood, more death than I was trained to deal with as a soldier. I never saw one because I never saw combat. These kids have. They are living in a war zone called kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Church. Their synagogues. Public playgrounds. They live with the Sword of Damocles over their collective heads. In other words, just like war-torn countries all over the world.
Where are mom and dad? Their extended family? Guardians?Good question. As brow- beaten as the rest of us, possibly. Unfortunately more and more of them are overdosing in the front seat while their kid sits in the back, waiting for them to wake up. If they ever do. While I am no fan of helicopter parents, I most assuredly have empathy for what may drive some folks to be overprotective. With all the whackaloons driving assault rifles into schools, arguing gun rights instead of kids’ rights to have a safe life in America, who can blame them?
Too many leaders are themselves lechers and child molesters. If they weren’t in elected office they’d be hovering around school bus stops. Shopping, if you will. America’s favorite pasttime.
Given this level of legitimate anxiety, these youngsters are prime targets for corporate marketing campaigns, candy-flavored tobacco, anything that provides the slightest relief. They’ve been tenderized by terror, left on their own or micro-managed by absentee or helicopter parents (which creates its own set of anxieties), and expected- as adolescents- to figure things out on their own when it’s clear that adults sure as hell aren’t to be trusted.
Those of us who grew up with alcoholic parents know what’s like to have to be uber-responsible at an age when our biggest priority should be- in a Disney Land world- what tree will I climb today? What game will I play? Which kids will I go have fun with? That gets hijacked by addicted caregivers. We face the possibility of an entire generation whose collective experience is this kind of absenteeism. While I think this is a deeply complex and multi-faceted issue, it touches every one of us regardless of our race. This is one piece that touches on the absenteeism issue which is growing rapidly: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america/.
For my dime, it’s not just fathers. We as a nation have deserted our kids. We do it every time we vote, choose not to vote, or choose to support initiatives that speak to our own selfish interests rather than the overwhelming needs of the next generation. But that’s just me.
IGen is the most diverse generation ever to grow up in America. According to Twenge, while on one hand they are extremely safety-conscious, with good reason, they are also the most tolerant, and demanding of justice for all.
Hm. Sounds like something that might have been on the Founding Fathers’ wish list. But I digress.
The iGeneration didn’t grow up with 9–11. They are bathed in images of war, the Great Recession just past. Far too many of them live in daily fear that at any moment, some lugnut will march onto their campus and start killing. Their reference points are of online trolling and bullying, the feelings of invasion and intrusion via social media. No wonder they don’t feel safe. No wonder they vape. No wonder they need an escape hatch.
Recently I heard a story about a child of five years old who was contemplating suicide.
Please. Take a moment and take that in. A tiny child of five years old is contemplating taking his life.
Here in Colorado a nine-year-old boy took his life during the first few weeks of school http://www.krcc.org/post/schools-are-offered-mental-health-toolkit-deal-soaring-suicide-rates. This is simply beyond comprehension but here we are. Bullying is a massive problem.
Why? Look at how adults bully each other. Because they can. That’s the example our kids are getting. What the hell did you expect was going to happen when nearly an entire generation of adults behaves like barnyard assholes?
Is this a rant? Damned right it is. You’re goddamned right it’s a rant. How dare we sacrifice our kids, our future, their futures, to our addictions, our distractions, and place their lives in the hands of corporations who couldn’t care less except for the profits they will make on their misery? Their obesity? Their diabetes? Their addictions and compulsions and desperate need to avoid their feelings?
I don’t have kids. However, I just voted by absentee ballot to increase taxes to fund schools.
I don’t have kids. Yet years ago when Colorado put forth a choice between Coors Stadium (for the Colorado Rockies) and a school funding measure, I voted for the schools.
Yah, Coors Stadium got built. That changed downtown. Well goody. Our schools are still woefully underfunded, but by god we got our stadium. The developers made out like bandits. Kids lost out. Don’t get me started.
Every single time there is a school funding measure, I vote for it. Because we owe to our kids. It makes no difference that I’m not a parent.
This is my country. These are my kids, too.
Here’s what it’s like in the seemingly endless boom that is the Colorado economy: http://www.cpr.org/news/story/colorado-school-funding-lags-despite-booming-economy.
This shames me deeply. We have among the highest rates of advanced education right here but our voters have a nasty habit of valuing sports over schools. The Broncos over our babies.
Look, I am a rabid football fan but in what kind of world do we live in that we honor grossly overpaid athletes (many with barely a high school education) over our children?
As we raze traditional ethnic neighborhoods to build McMansions, our housing costs shoot close to $500k for a home, push our ethnic minorities- the very people who will be in the majority in a few short decades- we trash our future just as we trash the rich variety and diversity that always made Denver such an interesting town.
We’re hardly alone.
I just don’t understand the extraordinary selfishness.
No other generation needs our attention, our empathy, our understanding and our tax dollars for education more than iGen. My distinct impression is that my fellow voters can’t be bothered. “I’m retired now.” “Kids don’t interest me.” “Not my problem.”
Yes it is. It’s America’s problem. And by virtue of that, it’s the world’s problem. Because as we undercut, ignore and underfund iGen kids, we also mortgage our future. Hand over leadership of the world to countries like China, which is quite happy to take that leadership off our hands.
Every generation simply loves to trash “kids these days.”
I’ll lay it on the line for you, fellow voters. When you vote down the very measures that best ensure well-educated, competent, safe kids for America’s future, you and I only have ourselves to blame for those “kids these days.” For my part, as a pacifist, virulently anti-gun military veteran, each time we vote for gun rights we effectively subsidize school shootings. But that’s just my opinion.
We are the authors of their futures. You want to blame someone, let’s look in the mirror.
Then get out and vote next week. It really is up to us.