Modern childhood is in ruins. What’s to blame?


Kernel Opinions Sig

Erin Oliver

American author Neil Postman once said, “If parents wish to preserve childhood for their own children, they must conceive of parenting as an act of rebellion against culture.” I believe he was right.

This generation of college students often faces scrutiny due to their controversial behavior and effect on culture. While critics may have viable points, I don’t think this is solely students’ faults. I believe the rise of the internet and the normalization of divorce are also to blame.

In the past few decades, the internet has become one of the most prominent features in everyday life and divorce has become a normality. Consequently, today’s children are faced with the daunting choice between being a kid or accepting the same hardships of adults.

It is perhaps the creation of the internet that has caused most of the havoc in kids’ childhoods. Due to easily accessible internet, including unmonitored YouTube videos and television shows, children are being exposed to adult content earlier than previous generations. 

According to Shared Hope International, 16.7 percent of parents allow their young children, those three years and younger, to surf the internet. Additionally, 29 percent of parents permit their children to engage in completely unrestricted internet use. It is alarming that children are potentially being exposed to content no child should become accustomed to.

This doesn’t include the harmless content that parents would like to believe is the limit of their kids’ exposure, such as YouTube videos featuring Jojo Siwa and slime-making tutorials. It includes content like online pornography, which 42.1 percent of kids say they have seen according to Shared Hope International. This is horrifying.

In order to mend these concerns, I believe children must have limited access to the internet.

My claim extends beyond YouTube videos. When kids have access to their own social media accounts, they are prone to imitate those they see on their feed. They follow celebrities and social media influencers, trying to be like them by acting beyond their age. Young internet users are also more susceptible to the risks of cyber predators.

In addition to the detrimental effect of the internet on children, the depressing reality of divorce also demonstrates how modern culture is deteriorating childhood. It is common knowledge that about half of marriages end in divorce. Even though there are many cases in which divorce is necessary and even benefits the child, its high frequency and the wear it leaves on children is still harming modern childhood.

While divorce is not a new phenomenon and children in many generations have faced this reality, it has only become normalized in recent years. Television shows now display modern families as broken in order to accurately display an American home. Bouncing from house to house is difficult on a child, especially when the relationship between their parents is not civil.

Again, there are instances in which divorce is crucial. But, with culture striving to normalize the concept, kids are forced to come to terms with these mature situations at an early age. 

Many other factors contribute to the devastation of modern childhood, but easy access to unmonitored devices and the heartbreaking process of divorce are significant causes. As children’s rose-colored glasses to the world are shattered, I believe it is crucial to fight to let kids be kids again.