Thursday, September 14, 2006

21st Century Nicotene

An alarming new trend has overtaken our neighborhood this summer.

In the midst of the insects buzzing over the wetlands and the distant sounds of lawnmowers and sprinkler systems, you can see children engaging in an activity that simply makes your heart sink.

No, its not drugs, or prostitution, or truancy. Nothing so timeless or typical of every generation since man's genesis...nothing so obviously destructive. It's a subtle sin, seemingly unworthy of attention, yet profound in its implications.

You can't cite poverty or the human condition as the cause. Our own greed and our need for instant gratification, our own vanity towards the mundane activities of life -- these are the culprits. We have only ourselves to blame for this quintessentially American middle-class behavior.

Several little girls in our community have taken to talking on their cellphones while riding their bicycles down the street. In early evenings, after school and before dinner, you'll see them as they weave and wobble on their pink and purple Huffies, concentrating far more on their conversations than on traffic.


Every generation of parents since the beginning of time has lifted the woeful cry, "Why do they grow up so fast?" We don't simply mourn the speed of transformation -- beauty, height, intellect -- but also the loss of innocence. But these days, it seems like we're actively (if not intentionally) stripping their innocence away.

We're not talking about a child who sneaked into dad's porn stash or scammed a couple of mom's cigarettes -- something that would most certainly get her into trouble. In fact, this generation of kids shuns tobacco and knows that it's sheer stupidity to NOT wear a seatbelt.

Today's parents have deftly accomplished the task of teaching their children about the dangers of riding a bike without a helmet or eating high-cholesterol foods. But what about the dangers of the internet? Cellphones? The television? Is an entire nation of parents in desperate need of detox before they pass on their information and technology addictions to their children?

Gone are the days when we had merely to worry about our children being home before dark and getting their homework done. Now you have to worry about internet pedophilia and child pornography, among other things. Since we started practically issuing cellphones at birth, you may even have to wonder about where your child is.

Here's an idea: Why not set a time limit for your child to be home? What about boundaries about where he or she can go? I guess I have to wonder about the value of an electronic leash that reinforces codependency while simultaneously aborting all sense of limitations. While some parents may call it a convenience, it really provides a way for them to pay even less attention to their kids without feeling guilty.

I just don't see any positive life lessons in giving a 10-year-old a cellphone and sending her on her way. When I grew up, parents engaged in the act of parenting, an enterprise that looks pretty novel by today's standards.

What's next? Skate boarding with a PDA?


  1. How about the Jeep Cherokee infant stroller complete with its own I-Pod jack for listening to over 4000 tunes while you roll along.

    No kidding. I just saw it at Babys-R-Us.

  2. LOL. At least that's for parent instead of child, but I've got question the wisdom of strolling your kid down the street with headphones on!

    You ordered one, right? ;)

  3. This is so old... I've seen the skateboarding PDA, the bluetooth motorcycle helmet (for cell use while on a motorcycle), hello kitty vibrator,
    guitar hero II video game (lets a parent pay the price of a real guitar and the kid not learn a damn thing), bratz dolls (that reinforce,
    not just gender stereotypes, but the WORST stereotypes), children sized thongs, etc…

    Oh, and BTW, I don’t think you can compare the way our parents grew up and how kids grow up now. You might as well compare Chinese immigrants in the wild west to the Bush kids. …. Ok, wait that could be fun….bbl….



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