We’ve all heard the protestations. “When I was a kid we were always allowed to… [fill in with something a kid did by themselves in the 1950s, 60s, 70s].” What changed in America? What created the mindset wherein a child shall NEVER BE LEFT ALONE?
(Note: the author does not have children of her own, but does have eyes, ears and a keen awareness of the media)
Blame the helicopter parent, the notion that children must always be protected, guided and guarded on the media. It starts with the news stories in the early 1980s about child molestation in pre-schools. America’s own witch-hunts. Perhaps some of it was true, but there was a lot of fear out there – and public fear feeds media attention.
What else fed the media? Well, the media certainly fed parents a few things. Starting with getting their children into law school or medical school. The glamorization of the professions on TV shows, plus jobs in factories leaving American shores and you have a storm of ‘get the kids into college’. Parents wanted better for their kids, no shame in that, but the push for law or medical school I can blame squarely on media glamorization.
Media attention to defective items made for children became a thing as well. Parents realized the media could be on their side if there was a perceived problem with an item. A car seat. A blanket. A toy. Food items. Parents contacted media outlets and the media put their camera on companies who didn’t want the notice. Companies backed down. Items got removed from store shelves. Parents had found a way to make companies do their bidding (and the internet is feeding this need now too).
Take that childhood! No more going to the local park! Play dates will be set up and the children played with will be scrutinized 100 ways from Sunday, as will the parents. Nothing that touches a child will be left alone. Fear fed by the media has created a culture of helicopter parents, and a society afraid to leave children alone for even one moment.
The media fed these fears. Culture embraced the fear and made it part of the normal. When fear drives culture, good rarely comes of it. Just saying.