Every generation has its own set of problems. It also has its own set of solutions, or ways of handling said problems. In the 1940s, parents had to deal with World War II and fathers going to war. In the 1960s, there was the backlash against civil rights, and dealing with the Vietnam draft. The '80s brought the Cold War and Reagonomics into our lives. Then there were the '90s, an era many of us grew up in. While not without its problems, today's parents worry about things that '90s parents didn’t have to.
Of course, it wasn’t all that easy during the '90s. The country experienced the first massive school shooting on April 20, 1999, in many ways forever changing how us parents would feel about sending our kids to school. We also watched in horror as the Oklahoma City Bombing unfolded in 1995 and 168 innocent people lost their lives. The HIV/AIDS epidemic was still in full swing, and misinformation about the disease continued to perpetuate an overwhelming amount of fear. Parents with curious children during the mid-'90s had to worry about explaining semen stains (Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton) and gloves that didn’t fit (OJ Simpson) too, so there were definitely some awkward conversations to be had.
But with the introduction of a seemingly endless amount of brand new technologies into our lives, parents today have a whole new set of problems to face that no other generation had to even consider. Problems like the following:
Yes, the shooting at Columbine High School happened in 1999, but that shooting felt like a horrible one-time tragedy than an indication of a larger, recurring, systemic problem.
Right now, I feel like school shootings are at the top of every parent’s worry list. According to the non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been 305 school shootings since 2013 alone, though these also count shootings in which no one was harmed or killed. Still, the idea that this many incidents involving guns have happened in just five years is terrifying. The worst part is we don’t seem to be getting any closer to potential solutions, thanks in major part to partisan politics.
When To Give Kids A Phone
When is a child responsible enough for their own device? How do we know they’ll be able to use it without encountering some terrible outside influences or without putting themselves in danger? What if we don’t give them a phone and there’s an emergency (like an aforementioned school shooting) and they can’t call the police, or us?
Parents in the '90s, for the most part, didn't have to worry about cell phones or iPads. And even if they did have a mobile phone, back then phones only made calls, sent (expensive) texts, and allowed your bored child to play Snake.
When do we allow kids to begin accessing social media? Which platforms do we allow them to use? How do we make sure they aren’t talking to creeps or being taken advantage of or being indoctrinated in any way? What if they get bullied online? What if someone asks them for pornography, or exposes them to it? Social media comes with a ton of questions, and we all have to decide, for ourselves, what the right answers are for us.
Back in the day, the worst revenge porn someone could do was maybe show their friends a naked polaroid of you. While this wasn’t ideal, it’s certainly a far cry from the issue of revenge porn we have today. Pornography is extremely pervasive in our society thanks to the multitude of free porn websites (something we did not have in the '90s). With our teens (hell, even tweens) growing up faster than ever, and using apps like Snapchat to send nude photos of themselves, this has become a nightmare for many individuals, including many parents.
Finding Porn Too Soon
When we were growing up, at least as I understood it, porn was much, much tamer. Our version of porn was scrambled on late-night TV, or a random Playboy magazine with a few naked ladies in it. There were video stores with more "advanced" stuff, of course, but it was such a hassle to access that it wasn’t really a huge problem.
These days, kids can access millions of images and videos with the push of a button on a tablet or smartphone. What’s worse is that pornography has become increasingly more violent toward women. There’s pornography about shaming women, simulating rape, and involve extremely graphic acts that I would not want my son to ever stumble across for fear he would think that's just how regular, run-of-the-mill, consensual sex works. There’s little pleasure for women in these videos, mostly made for the male gaze, and it is messing with young teens (especially heterosexual boys’) minds. I’m not against porn, but I hate the overly misogynistic and violent porn that seems to be so pervasive these days, especially when thinking of children stumbling upon it.
In recent years, we’ve had more and more people opt out of vaccines that have been around for decades. The measles vaccine, for example, was invented in the '60s and, according to the CDC, the measles were eliminated by 2000. But now we’re finding more cases of children contracting the virus due to parents being misinformed about vaccines and the so-called "link" to autism. While I certainly understand that parents are just trying to do their best to make sure they don't expose their children to unnecessary chemicals, adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare.
So, as a result of dangerous misinformation, we have to worry about whether or not our children are playing with kids who are unvaccinated, and with the rise of diseases (like whooping cough) makes a resurgence.
Millennial parents these days are struggling financially, more so than many of our parents were (unless, of course, you’re like me and had immigrant parents — a totally different set of circumstances apply there). For example, home ownership is rare for us, unless we got help from our well-off parents. So you can bet that even fewer of us are saving up for our children’s college tuition. And, of course, there’s the fact that tuition rates keep rising, so who knows if anyone will be able to afford to send their kid to a university in the next 15-20 years.
Alt-Right Influence & All The Racism
There’s always been racism in our society, make no mistake about it. There’s always been a faction of Nazi-obsessed people who think being a bigot makes them special. There’s always been cowards in hoods doing their best to terrorize people. Law enforcement officers have been predominantly attacking black and brown people for just about forever. None of this is new.
But now? Well, now we see it everywhere. Now the headlines are more and more frequent. Now we have people who have sympathized with Nazis, who have called themselves the “alt-right” in political office, and who've said there are "good people" marching in "alt-right" protests. Social media has certainly gone a long way in helping people popularize hate, and that includes hate among our own children.
Threat Of Nuclear War
It’s been a while since we, as Americans, had to really stress out about nuclear war. We had our concerns in the early 2000s and, as a result, sent troops to collected supposed weapons of mass destruction from certain individuals. Still, it seemed like a distant problem.
Now we watch our president tweets threats to North Korea and fail to impose sanctions on Russia and, well, things are not looking so great. While I’m staying optimistic and hoping we won’t actually end up dealing with nuclear war, it’s not a fun thing to think about while taking my kid to the playground and telling him he’s perfectly safe. In the end, I honestly can't say I know that's true anymore.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.