Kids these days! So coddled, so protected, so soft. The center of everyone’s attention. What’s not great about being a kid in the U.S. these days?
Turns out, plenty. Colin Greer argues in a short but smart piece over on Alternet (I found it via Salon) that since 1980, American childhood has become steadily worse. You might wonder how life in a $1,000 stroller and a dedicated “children’s bathroom” in the suburbs could signal anything but a great life between birth and 18 — heck, let’s get real and call 24 years old the end of childhood!
Greer warms readers up with a list of gains for children that began in the 1930s, hard to argue with advances like child labor laws, civil rights for children, secure employment for parents (hi, unions!), contraception, universal education, feminism and protection against adult violence, such as corporal punishment.
Greer observes that it took 50 years to build up these laws. But just as they began serving children at all levels of the socio-economic ladder, some started crying “nanny state!” and these protections have been steadily chipped away at.
Greer lists the ways the rise has turned into the fall: “schools are now a workplace of rigid rules, intense competition and permanent stress.” Play has diminished, welfare reform has a negative impact on children, child labor laws are circumvented and children are being sent through a judicial system that treats them like adults.
One area that I find is a daily fight for parents is in advertising and marketing to kids. Not only are kids sexualized, they’re just used — used for the money marketers have realized they can get in exchange for unhealthy food, stupid games, and a steady stream of environmentally and biologically harmful toys that are so cheap that a mountain of them have somehow become obligatory in every home (my words, not Greers).
Both lists are worth a read and I’m wondering if there aren’t a few you think might be missing. High-quality childcare isn’t guaranteed to be available or affordable, despite the fact that most families need more than one income to make it.
Millions of kids don’t have access to enough healthcare — even when they have some form of medical coverage, vision and dental is not included.
Millions of children around the U.S. are being raised in de facto segregated communities and attend segregated schools.
Higher education too often requires a person take on a lifetime of debt in order to get the bare minimum for professional work.
Public education is woefully underfunded, forcing college freshmen to pay for remedial education before they can even begin working toward a degree.
Government subsidies for make unhealthy foods the cheapest ones available.