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There are an awful lot of good ideas that have had very negative consequences on society..

The collapse of organised religion is probably one of the main events that falls into that category - while I don't think that organised religion in itself is much of a positive force, the fact that it was replaced by nothing wasn't well thought out. In days gone by, families would get together on a Sunday and go to church, to learn moral lessons and respect.. Of course they didn't like it, but maybe that was part of the point. It was a culture in which people did things they didn't want to do, because they were told to by adults, and they did what they were told.

These days, nobody does what they don't want to do. Kids eat junk and get fat because they want to eat burgers, and don't want to eat vegetables, and suddenly it's become okay for them to spend their pocket money on crap from the school cafeteria. Whatever happened to kids doing as they were told, and accepting it because they respect their parents? Naomi and I differ on this point, and I think it has something to do with growing up in a village. Just as when you visit Ireland, you feel like you've travelled fifty years into the past, there's a good chance that upon entering Chinnor you slip back a good decade or two. Changes to social attitudes are a form of cultural transmission, and with a lower rate of osmosis in rural areas, I can see why it would take longer for the steady decay of society to reach my little village, at least at the younger age groups. There being only one secondary school, it was virtually a closed system for much of childhood.

So when Naomi was 13, it was 1999 in Reading. When I was 13, it was 1994 in Chinnor, which is virtually 1984 really.. I can see how this might give the impression of her being more in touch with the reality of kids today, but that all depends on whether you plan to accept reality, I suppose. I'm rather good at ensuring that reality does not interfere with how I think things should pan out, and usually it works for me. So just because kids are worse these days doesn't mean that mine have to be, and doesn't mean that mine have to be brought up somewhere where that's an issue. With the rise of the Internet, cultural transmission goes through the roof and I doubt anywhere in the country resembles where I grew up these days. But it's not like this is the only country on the planet..

I guess the point is, somewhere along the line a lot of small decisions were made which seemed like good ideas, and probably were, but they had wide reaching effects. The notion that women should work, for example - go back a few years, and it simply wasn't acceptable. Women were to stay at home, with the children and the cooking, and even though things sucked for them on a personal level, they formed the glue that kept families together. As the feminist movement slowly eliminates extreme gender roles and plays down individual gender identity, family units seem to be less cohesive.

Then there's the religion thing as well.. A lack of religion strips people of a common identity, common purpose, and group activities. Now don't get me wrong, I don't support organised religion one bit, and I'm quite glad that it's not the norm in the same way that it is in the USA. Which is not to say that US culture is without faults, but I don't think a growing lack of respect for one's elders is one of their main issues. Perhaps this is due to the availability of firearms to children - who needs to disrespect their elders when they can just shoot them?

And the Internet. I feel like, in the old days, there were theoretical limits to the transmission of ideas and concepts that cause people to grow up faster. It's hard to explain exactly what I mean by that, but try to imagine being at school, especially when young. Your 'culture' was whatever you came up with in conjunction with kids your own age. The growing up process was accelerated by people who had older siblings, but the rate still wasn't exactly high. Somebody's older brother might teach you a rude song, which you'd teach to the rest of your class, but in general, the flow of 'maturity' from older people to younger people didn't seem to upset any balances. Enter the age of TV-parenting and the Internet. Suddenly, everybody knows everybody.

In the old model, you could imagine two fluids, separated by a membrane. The older people are hotter, the younger people are colder. Using only convection, the rate of heat transfer is limited by how porous the membrane is between the two fluids. Kids with older siblings provide one such conduit, along with anybody else who has older friends, but by and large there were theoretical limits to the exposure people got from people outside their own maturity bracket.

This goes double for small villages, of course, because the membranes there aren't very porous at all - older people just didn't mix much with younger people, and there weren't the opportunities for 'growing up' that there are in more urban settings.

The Internet breaks that. So-called 'Web 2.0' allows fifteen year olds to publish every aspect of their fifteen year old lives, and potentially expose thirteen year olds to the issues that they face. It's like TV, only you can actually get feedback - rather than watching X and Y break up on screen, you can actually know X, and ask how they're feeling, and generally become involved in the whole situation. In this way, the second you hit the age where you can run around on the Internet unsupervised, suddenly that's it - you're potentially exposed to every sort of situation imaginable, and childhood quickly slips away.

I probably come across as being more alarmist than I really am in reality.. I tend not to let these things actually bother me - it just seems like globalisation in general and mass communication in particular facilitates faster cultural transmission from older kids to younger kids, to the point where the whole "Children are growing up younger" thing accelerates unmanageably. I don't know, I have all these memories of a childhood in which kids didn't talk back to their teachers, and respected their parents (at least to their faces), and sometimes I wonder how much I'd want to bring kids up into an environment in which that was no longer the case..

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It scares the shit out of me to the point where I really do wonder if I actually want to bring up any kids at all (setting this point aside from whether I should be *allowed* to have children...)

Given that it'd be nigh on impossible to prevent your kids having some sort of access to the internet from an early age due to peer pressure from their mates, it's hard to imagine them not having similar problems to what you describe.

I really hate the idea that childhood is rapidly becoming the period between when you're born and when you first access MySpace at the age of 6. In the ideal world I'd like to make my own kids' experiences as similar to how our generation grew up as possible, but our world gets less and less ideal with each passing 8-year-old mugger.

Is there any way back to the halcyon days of yore?

(I see LJ have finally fix0red themselves - apologies for the multiple postage)

You have put into words here several thoughts I've had since becoming a mother. I think the result of all this is that we need more proactive parenting - parents who are willing to help their children put their wealth of information access (and the information therein) into perspective so that boundaries will still exist.

I'm not so concerned about raising my children in today's world because I think as long as we give them a strong moral and ethical foundation and teach them the importance of both communication and skepticism when evaluating the world around them, they'll be able to handle all the data being thrown at them. Unfortunately, parents seem to be doing the opposite of that... either allowing the kids to jump right into everything without giving them the tools to sort through it or remaining in denial about just how much control they have and what their kids are exposed to.

It will certainly be a challenge, raising kids in the faddishly atheist, fast food internet age. But I think every generation has said, "I don't want to raise kids in a world like this," for one reason or another. We just have to make the best of it.


Thanks for information.
many interesting things

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