There's a common saying that people tend to look back on the past through rose-colored glasses, meaning that people's memories can be much happier or more forgiving than the reality of the situation. For instance, think about kids who grew up in the 1990s. If you ask any of those now-adults about their childhood, they'll most likely fondly reminisce about how awesome things were back then. But have you ever thought about the things '90s parents let kids do that no parent would allow today?
It's not exactly like the '90s were the way Demolition Day or the Terminator displayed such a dystopian decade of chaos and kids running from villains and robots. But if you're being honest, your parents would definitely not pass a test given by current parents who seem ultra concerned with safety.
Though the helicopter parents of today could possibly learn a thing or two from the decidedly looser moms and dads of the '90s, you still have to wonder how their practices would be received nowadays.
So pop off those rose-tinted spectacles and check out some of the things that parents in the '90s let you do that would never happen with today's standards.
1. Eat Food That Was Basically Entirely Synthetic
No one has ever pretended like Lunchables, Handi Snacks, Fruit By The Foot, and even Kids Cuisine's mysterious color-changing dessert were healthy. But looking back, it's surprising how much plastic-y, synthetic, unnatural food parents let their kids eat in the '90s. Today, there are organic versions of almost all of these classic '90s treats.
2. Go Hours Without Communicating
Before cellphones were super popular, it was pretty much for emergency use only. So that meant that from the time you went to school until the time either you or your parents came home, there was typically no communication except if the nurse's office had to make a call. Now, many schools have text message systems in place to alert parents of any potential issues, almost all children have a smartphone by the time they're entering middle school, if not earlier, and services like Skype let people chat anywhere they have Wi-Fi.
3. Play With Dangerous Toys
Show me a person who's never hit a rock on a Slip'n'Slide, poked an eye with a Sky Dancer, or twisted an ankle on a pair of Moon Shoes, and I'll show you a liar. Seriously, though, did '90s parents just not put that much thought into the kinds of toys they were buying their children?
4. Have Unsupervised Internet Access
Despite the fact that many kids of the '90s had to use a computer in a central location, they could still easily get into trouble online. Honestly, the only time my parents seemed to care about me being on the internet is if they needed to make a call and I was hogging the dial-up. Now, I don't know a single parent who would let their kid go online without installing parental blocks, monitoring their activity, or at the very least, warning them about the dangers of internet predators and scams.
5. Let Bullying Go Unchecked
In the '90s, it wasn't odd to hear a group of supposed friends rag on each other using (what we would consider now to be) homophobic language or hate speech. If your friend called you a f*g for not participating in Phys. Ed., your parents and your peers probably told you to laugh it off. Additionally, many parents' advice regarding bullying was to "man up," fight back, or ignore it.
Thankfully, it seems the world in general has become a lot more aware of the impact bullying, in any form, can have on children. With documentaries and charities all shining an unforgiving light on those who refuse to be kind and inclusive, '90s parents would probably be quite surprised with how bullies are handled today.
6. Get Pierced By Teenagers
OK, maybe some parents today would let this one happen, but it would be few and far between. Back in my day (said the old person), either your older friend pierced your ears DIY-style or you went to the mall and had a kid not much older than you with minimal training essentially put a nail gun to your ear.
7. Roam Freely
Whether you were dropped off at the mall, hanging with neighbor kids after dark, or randomly deciding to walk to your best friend's house, '90s parents didn't seem to concerned about knowing the whereabouts of their children at all times.
8. Buy Violent Video Games
Blame it on the fact that video games were still a fairly new form of entertainment or that most parents were just happy to have their kids out of their hair for an extended period of time, but games like Mortal Kombat and Duke Nukem didn't skimp on the gore and adult themes.
9. Play Outside Unprotected
Most parents I knew growing up didn't have a mandatory bike helmet policy. They also didn't care about SPF, skin cancer risks, padding, mouth guards, or any other kind of protective gear. At the height of X Games and Jackass popularity, kids everywhere were constantly injuring themselves.
10. Assumed You Were Capable Beyond Your Years
Sending you to the grocery store solo, being trusted to watch kids only a few years younger than you, staying home alone, and splitting up in public with a plan to meet up in a few hours were all things '90s parents let their kids do because they tended to treat them more like mini-adults than children.
11. Watch "Kids" Cartoons
If it was on Nickelodeon, MTV, or the Cartoon Network, then it must be safe for kids, right? No, '90s parents, it was most definitely not G-rated. From Ren & Stimpy to Beavis and Butt-Head, cartoons were decidedly more aimed at adults than they were at young kids. But that didn't stop most kids from watching.