Wednesday, June 6, 2007


while mountain biking last night with my friend, we were passed by another cyclist wearing a helmet. in fact, a large portion of the other riders i saw were wearing helmets. this sparked a discussion as we rolled along the trail.

when i was growing up, i never wore a helmet, or pads, or any real safety prevention devices of any kind. no one i knew did. i also played outside constantly. i ran with sharp sticks. i threw rocks. i rolled down hills in garbage cans. i ate gross stuff. i rode in the back of my dad's truck. i repeatedly jumped off of the roof of our 3 story house into a bush for fun. i surfed down our staircase on a sleeping bag. i never wore a seat belt. all my friend's did the same sort of things. i'm not saying no one got hurt. actually, at one point or another, we all sustained injuries. a few scrapes here, a cut there. an occasional broken arm or leg. no brain damage or eyeballs got poked out, though, and we all survived our childhoods without any major permanent physical damage.

the children of today are treated as though they are made of eggshells. any kid exerting themselves more then a slow walk is swaddled in foam and plastic and rubber. it seems to be the social norm now to take every possible precaution to prevent even the smallest and unlikely injury from occurring. coddled and protected from any threat imaginable. there are always exceptions to the rules and not everyone falls into this category, but it does appear to be the trend of the times.

its not as though kids are more wreckless or doing crazier things. actually, from what i've seen, children hardly play outside at all anymore. most of them are glued to the television with its 500 channels. they hammer and mash buttons on video game controllers. they 'chat' for hours on instant messengers. pale, overweight kids with stunted social skill development. there's little time for interaction while locked away staring at a computer monitor or television set during all free waking hours. instead, they chat and email and myspace away. technology has created new avenues of communication for the tech savvy, indoor-ridden, modern youth. they've no use for personal connections or physical interaction. everyone is connected, but disconnected at the same time.

i think there's a link between it all. psychologists say most of our personality, who we are as people as we transform into functional adults, is a result of our early lives. our formative years. whether conscious of why we made the choices we make or not, most of it can be traced back to our adolescence. we took risks as children, well aware of the possibility of injury, yet we did it just the same. if any of us came home with blood trickling from a knee, a goose bump on a forehead, or even a fractured wrist, our parents usually just wagged a finger with an "oh, you kids" expression and warned us to be more careful next time. we were taught to be responsible for ourselves. even if it was "little johnny" who pushed me off my skateboard, i was partially to blame for my horse play. no lawsuits were filed. not against "mr. and mrs. little johnny". not against the manufacturers of the skateboard. then, after getting fixed with some bactine or a cast or a ziploc bag of ice, we were sent back out. we learned to take risks and be brave enough to face a little pain. like a baby bird being tossed from the nest. fly or fall. without the repercussions of the failure, the success isn't nearly as sweet.

we learned how to play fair. we learned how to take our friend's feeling into consideration. we grew deep friendships with our peers and their families. we had real relationships with adults.

i'm wondering what the kids of today will grow into. children with a one sided punishment/reward learning structure, shielded from the negative results of their actions. the over-protective nature of both parents and society in general can't be all good. will 20 more years bring adults with a core fear of danger and a constant sense of their own fragility? maybe. will the adults of tomorrow have little to no inner connection or empathy with your fellow man? perhaps. i'm a little nervous as to how a generation of kids grown in virtual isolation will lead the world.

maybe i'm being overly critical or just looking too far into the face of it. it just makes me wonder.

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