14 Things That Are Now Off Limits for Kids to Do
Who needs organic snacks, smartphones and supervision? Not ’70s or ’80s babies! Here’s a throwback to when kids were device-free, perfectly content eating junk and sneaking out without the whole world knowing. We ate goldfish in the back of our parents' station wagons, passed notes in class and, at some point, overalls were a thing.
Yes, childhood has a few more rules than it used to, making it arguably safer. I mean, can you imagine taking junior to daycare in a flimsy-as-hell, once-appropriate car seat? But childhood of decades past was filled with exploration, treats with questionable ingredients and a ton of independent fun. The verdict's still out on which era is better, but it’s safe to say that the following things would never be possible in today’s age of child rearing.
Visit the Cockpit on Your First Plane Ride
When I was 5 years old, I nervously walked down the aisle of a Boeing 747. I clung to my mother’s hand for dear life as we navigated past crying babies and disgruntled businessmen. She knocked on the door of the cockpit. It slid open, revealing a complicated control panel, a sea of clouds and a pilot with a broad smile. “Hi there! Would you like to be my honorary captain today?” he asked.
I promptly lifted up my mother’s shirt, flashing her bra to both the pilot and co-pilot, and pulled it over my head. True story. She was not happy, but as I walked back to my seat holding my shiny, gold, wing-shaped pin, I was elated. Alas, the days of friendly visits to the cockpit are long gone. Today’s tots miss out on exciting meet and greets with pilots in important looking hats, but they can still get the honorary pin. That's something, right?
Play With Toy Guns
Childhoods of decades past were filled with non-PC games. On today’s playgrounds, a rousing game of “Wild West” wouldn’t go over well. Pretending to shoot someone at all in any situation is pretty solidly off limits. And at school, even the most fake looking of toy weapons are banned from campus, cutlery included.
At home, moms ask themselves if squirt guns are too violent. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, tread carefully on school grounds. An 11-year-old in Florida was suspended for possession of an abhorred, abominable, despicable … butter knife.
Walk to the Park Alone
Growing up, did you ever walk with your friends over to 7-Eleven and play at the park? Yeah, kids can’t do that anymore. One mom let her 8-year-old take their beloved dog, Marshmallow, for a walk. She promptly received a visit from Child Protective Services after a concerned neighbor reported her.
Although she was cleared of any wrongdoing, it’s safe to say we have to be MUCH more cautious about how much independence we allow our kids. One mom was even arrested just for letting her kids, ages nine and six, play in their quiet cul-de-sac. To avoid any complaints, let’s just handcuff ourselves to our kids. Or hey, why not just stay inside? Forever.
Stay Out Until the Streetlights Come On
At one time, school kids were kicked out of the house to go play with friends while their moms kept house. Be home for dinner, they would say. Not today, my friend. Risk of maternal arrest aside, allowing kids to roam is scarier than it used to be — at least the internet would have you think that. I mean, you can look up how many registered creeps live in your neighborhood.
On Nextdoor, moms are chatting about the shady-looking lady at your favorite park who kept following some of the toddlers. And on Facebook, you just found out that now all those swim lessons you invested in are useless, because apparently kids can drown on dry land, too. What is the world coming to?
Actually … not much of anything. Contrary to what social media would have us believe, the world is arguably safer for kids now than it has been for the vast majority of history. There are just a lot more people, a lot more cars and a LOT more terrifying news headlines.
Rent a Movie at Blockbuster
Remember a time when your whole Friday night revolved around going to the local movie store and perusing the aisles until you found the perfect flick to watch? Maybe you argued about which one to get with your brother. Or you lovingly convinced your boyfriend to get the latest romantic comedy eight weeks in a row — who knew there were so many?
Whoever you were with, the experience was a defining part of growing up for previous generations. Today’s kids have all of these options at their fingertips via Netflix, Hulu, Prime TV or some other streaming service. And if they don’t like the film they chose 10 minutes in, they can immediately move onto the next one. No wonder today’s kids expect to be entertained at a moment’s notice. Today, there’s just no equivalent to a decision as important as what movie to rent.
Eat Fruit Roll-Ups
Ever tried a Fruit Roll-Up? I have. My mom hopped onto the organic, unprocessed train early, you see. Fruit Roll-Ups were the forbidden fruit. I positively lusted after them. I would beg my friends to share a piece, but carrots and hard-boiled eggs weren’t the best bargaining chips. Finally, one of them took pity on me and tore off a strip. That neon red piece of solidified goo was heavenly. Sadly, within that tantalizingly sweet, chewy, melt-in your mouth miracle, I’m fairly certain there wasn’t a single molecule of real fruit. It was a delicious morsel of utterly delicious junk, as were Gushers, Lunchables and Capri Suns. And who remembers Dunkaroos?
While these timeless products still exist, knowing what’s in them makes them considerably less appealing for parents. Once again, parental awareness has ruined something fun. I suppose the cavity-free teeth are worth the tradeoff.
Write a Research Report Without Wikipedia
What would we do without Google? Our kids surely have no idea. Writing a paper based on stacks of heavy library books sounds irritating as all heck, but that’s what we used to do. We also used to rely on the Thomas Guide for our family road trips and stop at the gas station to ask for directions.
Kids today have no earthly idea how to use a map, research at an actual library or rewind a cassette tape by hand. Lucky for them, they don’t need to!
Sit at the Dinner Table Without Picking Up an iPhone
I like my phone. I love it. But I do not love zombies. I went to the Original Pancake House the other day, and a family of six sat down at the booth next to us. At first, all was normal. They browsed the menu, ordered a cup of coffee and multiple stacks of chocolate chip pancakes. And then it happened. The table went silent.
Their eyes glazed over as each and every one of them, toddler included, fell into a stupor over an array of smartphones and tablets. Zombies. Twenty years ago, zombie families weren’t a thing. Why did we have to ban fruit roll-ups? Take the zombie kids instead!
Have Real Conversations
Speaking of zombies, kids today have forgotten how to talk. Like, really talk. On average, kids today get their first smartphone at the ripe young age of 10. At that age, I was just figuring out how to make a Neopets account on a clunky, grey desktop computer. Texting wasn’t a thing. We spent hours talking on the phone, and in person, the conversation was natural and open. Sometimes awkward, too, but that was all part of the experience. Today, call a kid on the phone, and it will likely go straight to voicemail, quickly followed by a text that says, “Yea?”
No. Nope. Answer the damn phone, kid! Look UP. Wooed by the speed and comfort of texting, kids today fail to engage in real, face-to-face communication. Considering 93 percent of communication is non-verbal, the obsession with texting is one teen trend we could really do without.
Save Up to Buy Your First Car
OK, technically this one is still possible, but it’s a whole lot harder than it used to be. Stellar grades aren’t enough anymore to guarantee a spot at a great college. Who has time to babysit or get a first job at the mall between studying for the SAT, private tutoring, logging volunteer hours and going to practices for multiple sports?
Even if your kid does get a job, a decent used car still costs thousands. If you want your teenager to drive themselves to school or help take siblings to soccer, they might need a little help affording their sweet, slightly dented ride.
I am proud (and slightly disappointed) to say that I never, ever snuck out to a party in high school. Not once. I was a nerd. I liked knitting, reading and recording choir music alone in my room with my cats. Had I wanted to sneak out, however, I could have easily snuck out the slider and drove off to, I don’t know, nervously try a sip of a swiped wine cooler at the beach with my other nerdy friends?
In 2019, I wouldn’t even have a chance. Parents have all kinds of tools to keep track of their kids’ whereabouts. From GPS tracking phone apps to devices that report if your teens are speeding, it’s a lot harder to do something crazy these days. The safety features are nice, but it’s worth remembering that we’re trying to keep our kids safe — not utterly suffocate them until they hate our guts. Be careful. One day they’ll be choosing your retirement home.
Be Stupid Without the Entire World (and Future Employers) Knowing
While teens do need to have enough room to grow, mistake-making included, the stakes are higher for rebellious, impulsive, late-night regrets. Everything kids do today frequently comes with photo evidence — evidence that’s almost always shared with the entire internet. The dumber the mistake, the more likely someone will pull out a phone to record it. Before smartphones and social media came around, mistakes were forgotten much more quickly. Unless they resulted in a school suspension or an arrest record, even the biggest of scandals could disappear by switching schools.
Today, if a scandal happens at school, it happens EVERYWHERE. One inappropriate photo sent to a crush can be all over Facebook in about 3 seconds. One dumb drunken rant in college can be immortalized on YouTube. Mistakes don’t disappear anymore. Kids: If you’re going to do something stupid, do it very, very carefully. Or better yet, skip the risk, and just slam your bedroom door, listen to some emo music and hate your parents like we did in the good ol’ days.
Have Alone Time and Do, Well, Nothing
A world without smartphones is strangely hard to imagine. A world where we didn’t talk to our partners, our friends, our kids or anyone at all until we had time to get to a pay phone. Being off-the-grid was normal. Today, parents and kids alike are always “on.” If your 16-year-old is walking to a friend’s house after school and doesn’t reply to your text, you start to get worried after a mere 20 minutes. After an hour, you’re calling them frantically. You’re calling their friend, too, because that isn’t weird at all.
With smartphones ever present, there is seldom time for teens to disconnect and exist in the moment. Let them know it’s healthy to turn it off sometimes. It’s OK to have quiet time. It’s OK not to be available for an hour. The texts can wait … but please, if you put your phone on silent, let mom know where you are first. Or she WILL kill you.
Just Be Kids
Just in the past 20 years, childhood has taken on an entirely new face. Technology is a part of our lives practically from birth. The tech-era has big benefits — greater parental awareness, fast access to educational resources and helpful tech tools, and healthier food, to name a few. Sadly, tech doesn’t come without consequences. The biggest one? The freedom to just be a kid. By nature, kids are curious, active and a little wild. Staring at screens all day can stifle that energetic spirit and sometimes give kids a little more information than they’re mature enough to handle.
We can’t get rid of modern technology altogether, but we don’t need to! Instead of backing over Alexa with the family car, just make more time each week to unplug and allow kids room to grow. Inside, supervise screen time. Outside, let them test their limits. Let them climb a tree. Let them go off with their friends. Let them make a few mistakes. Let them be kids!
One day, your creative, socially aware, tech-savvy, organic kale-eating, book-reading, mistake-making, wonderful kids will thank you. Even if they did eat a few Fruit Roll-Ups along the way.