June 19, 2007

Indoor children.

The WaPo frets about how kids are too indoorsy these days:
Concerns about long-term consequences -- affecting emotional well-being, physical health, learning abilities, environmental consciousness -- have spawned a national movement to "leave no child inside." In recent months, it has been the focus of Capitol Hill hearings, state legislative action, grass-roots projects, a U.S. Forest Service initiative to get more children into the woods and a national effort to promote a "green hour" in each day.

Tomorrow 40 civic leaders -- representing several governors, three big-city mayors, Walt Disney Co., Sesame Workshop, DuPont, the gaming industry and others -- will launch a campaign to raise $20 million that will ultimately fund 20 initiatives across the country to encourage children to do what once seemed second nature: go outdoors.
Back in the old days, it was just your mom saying get out of the house. Now, it's the whole government. The government wants me to get out of the house? That would have made me even less likely to leave the house. The real question is what would make a kid love to go outside. Don't we want kids to go outside because we believe it is good? If we're right about that -- are we? -- why don't the kids think it's good?

ADDED: The most interesting tidbit in the article is that there are a lot of kids these days who do things with their thumbs that the rest of us do with out index fingers (like ringing a doorbell and "dialing" a phone). Playing video games and text messaging has apparently rewired their brains, making their thumbs dominant.


Bob said...

Didn't you just post on this last week, Ann? Ahead of the curve!

I almost expected the article to mention The Dangerous Book For Boys.

USA Today has a similar story in today's Life section.

J said...

"the gaming industry and others"

I suppose they could lure parents with outdoor activities for kids, but apart from that, why would casino operators care about this?

Telecomedian said...

Funny; the Government wants kids running around outdoors, and the media has given the impression that the world is a dark, scary place at every turn. Your child will be kidnapped /held back in school / murdered /poisoned with a Halloween apple if they dare go outside.

Who will win?

Sloanasaurus said...

I agree with Telo. IN my neighborhood, kids are outside all the time, so I don't get the Post article. However, the main fear parents have comes from the media. If the government wants kids to go outside they should start fighting against the media fears - that should inform us the truth such as your kid has a better chance of keeling over and dying then being abducted by a stranger... or that Lymes disease is no more prevelent than it has always been.

Having a stay at home mom also helps kids go outside. The more mom is at home, the more opportunities kids have to go outside. Perhaps the media should start slamming working mothers(except the media is all made up of working mothers) or at the very least stop their campaign against stay at home moms.

rhhardin said...

Thurber and White (_Is Sex Necessary?_ ``Claustrophobia, or What Every Young Wife Should Know'', 1929), in leading up to the advice to stop rearranging the furniture, write :

``Freedom is as essential and as aprimary an urge with a man as the loss of it is with a woman. A man grows up with the desire to be free and unfettered. The boy of six wants to play outside the house all the time. He doesn't even want to come into the house for his meals. On the other hand, little girls like to be in the house as much as they can. When dusk falls, the little boys are restless and under the urge to be several blocks away, playing Go, Sheepy, Go, but the little girls want to be home putting their dolls to bed. Usually at least one of the dolls is ill and needs constant attention. Often it is necessary to force little girls to go outside and get some air and exercise, just as it is frequently necessary to use force to get little boys _into_ the house. And even when girls go outdoors, they have to be watched like a hawk or they will be playing house in the dog box or under the cellar door.

``And yet, in spite of all this, women marry men without giving the serious chasm between their essential natures a thought. They think that a man wants a home. Well, he does, in a vague sort of way. Not so much a home, however, as a house. He likes to be able to say where he lives when he goes to vote, and things like that. But he doesn't want a home in the sense that a woman does, to potter around in. He has neither the same urge nor the same talent for hanging pictures and rearranging furniture. A woman, no matter how opposed she may becomes to housework, still gets a small thrill out of shifting things...''

It may be that a gender divide needs to be considered, before the one-size-fits-all idea imposes itself.

Anonymous said...

Why adults should think it’s good to kick them out of the house:

1. vitamin D, breeze, bug bites, sweat, snow
2. playing in the rain
3. pick-up games with other kids
4. fort and fairy hut construction
5. birds, insects and cloud watching
6. smelling flowers, picking off petals
7. grass under bare feet, concrete, too
8. favorite thinking tree
9. running with Sparky
10. “Keep Out” clubs
11. horizon and imagination
12. backyard camp-out, hotdogs and stars
13. lobbing chinaberries at passersby
14. parks, woods, lakes and sidewalk puddles
15. climbing on garage roof for zen point
16. bicycling, stilts, jumprope, jacks
17. How would you like to go up in a swing/ Up in the air so blue?
18. chalking up the street and drive
19. mowing grass, hammering stuff in the garage
20. life unplugged- no refrigerator, TV, computer, stereo…

Of course, the highest and best reason to kick the kids outdoors is to give Mom a little peace and quiet. And joy when she can see her daughter through the window climbing the willow and exploring the wilds in her mind.

George M. Spencer said...

For those of you who don't have elementary age children, here's the current drill....

1) Want to let your child walk home alone before or after school?

You need to submit a signed letter to the principal. (This is in the suburbs, not a warzone.)

2) Want to let your child stay after school to play on the playground?

You must be there. If you cannot be there, the child cannot stay. However, if you wish to have a friend, nanny, or neighbor watch your child, that person must submit a signed letter to the principal.

3) Want to let your child stay after school more than one half hour (or so) to play?

Nope. Children in the afterhours program are not allowed to mingle with non-afterhours children.

4) Want to let your child roughhouse (play wildly) on the playground after school?

Nope. One of the many, many mommies hanging out will put an end to all that screaming, wrestling and shoving and chasing.

5) Want the school to pay to refurbish the the eroded wooded trail and its decaying bridge that leads to the school?

Never happen. Little bird told me that within 10 years or so the entire facility will most likely be surrounded by a security fence and cameras.

Anyway, the outdoors is way boring compared to the net, TV, Ipods, etc.

MadisonMan said...

Parents should also be outside, leading by example. If parents are indoor parents, should we expect their kids to be any different?

Synova said...

A couple people already hit on the truth of it. I assume that they have children.

The world is a scary place. I don't know that children get in trouble more often than they used to do, but anyone who lets their children roam the neighborhood these days is considered a bad parent. If your moody pubescent 12 year old takes walks out in the air and sunshine, most likely a neighbor will mention they saw her alone and it isn't safe.

And the school rules. Yeah, those are there too, but not just for young students. The high school rules are the same. Can't go off campus without a signed note. Can't leave with anyone at all without a signed note. Can't sign a note that says, "My kid can make these decisions."

And maybe I should thumb my nose at the biddies who see danger around every corner and will think I'm negligent if my children play... but I'm weak that way.

If they really (whoever *they* are) want kids outdoors more, they don't need outdoor sports or programs, they need to work to change attitudes about what constitutes good parenting to make "get out of the house" something acceptable again.

Heh. My Mom and her sisters were often returned by the police, just like on Mary Poppins. Can you imagine that happening today?

Anonymous said...

"It may be that a gender divide needs to be considered, before the one-size-fits-all idea imposes itself."

Ah, the good old days of corsets and fainting spells. But it's usually true that women hang pictures more artfully and playfully and men more agonizingly and painstakingly. The former makes a home and not a house :)

Synova, if you listen to the other moms who, in my case, thought it criminally negligent to let my girl go outside without shoes sometimes, then your and your children's lives get circumscribed by busybodies. My child's pediatrician told me to tell them that they were abusing their kids by not allowing them to come into direct contact with the dirt from which life springs, or some such. He was a cool doc!

Safety issues are always a concern, but it helps to live where your children can range outside without a parent hovering-- for both their development and your sanity.

Mark S said...

I agree with Madisonman. If you want your kids to go outside, then take them out when they're young. I've been taking my 7 year old daughter outside since she was 1. And my 2 year old son has been going outside since he was born.

If I mention going outside. TVs, video games and computer get turned off and the kids come running to go outside.

rhhardin said...

Ah, the good old days of corsets and fainting spells.

There's no point in fainting if there's no man around. Women see right through it, for one thing.

The same is probably true of corsets.

The difference in what sustains the interests of men and women respectively, though, is more interesting, and has all sorts of effects.

The Drill SGT said...

some of this "insiderness" is a result of the "anti-boy" campaign promulgated by the education industry.

Today we assume that boys in shool are abnormal girls. They need to be treated, not encouraged is the approach I see in schools

Synova said...

I've never figured out the moving furniture thing and hanging a picture seems to be beyond my ability. There are a lot of "girl" things I'm just not good at.

I will say, though, that change is what makes dreary maintenance interesting. A friend of mine said the same thing about her gardening. When she was moving plants or buying new ones, digging stuff out, thinking of how to change it, it was interesting for her. If it was just weeding it would get really boring really fast.

Laura Reynolds said...

If your kid (God forbid) were to be injured or worse, being outside, there would be a lot more problems to deal with, compared to my youth, 40 years ago.

Not very common to see a pick up baseball, football or basketball game. Schools don't want the liability of kids hanging around together, after hours. Gotta have a bike helmet, kids alone at a park arouse suspiscion, etc.

And yes, the government getting involved is not nearly as important as parents.

M.E. said...

No one has yet mentioned air conditioning, but I think it's a huge factor. My husband and I (boomers) grew up in houses where only one room had a window air conditioner, and we certainly weren't allowed to sit in that room all day. Anyway, the AC was only turned on after dinner on really hot evenings so Mom and Dad could read the paper and relax for a bit. The family car didn't have an air conditioner at all -- just wide-open windows.

So, two things: 1) We were used to feeling hot, sticky, and sweaty all summer, and 2) it was almost always better to be outside in the summer, in the shade, maybe catch a nice breeze once in awhile.

Today, children are used to air conditioned everything: schools, cars, homes, malls. They're not acclimated to heat and humidity. For those with allergies, the filtered air also adds to the comfort level of indoors.

Plus, as some have mentioned, there are scary things outside: Lyme-carrying ticks, enchephalitis-bearing mosquitos, killer bees, "Stranger Danger".

And then the whole issue of sunburn. I don't know a single kid who doesn't hate having to put on sunblock, but they also know all about skin cancer and the horrible danger of the sun. It's easier just to stay inside.

Kids are rational beings. When they look at all the pros and cons, I'm sure they see it as a no-brainer: the indoors is safer, healthier, more comfortable, all-around better.

So, yes, the culture needs to change. Stop obsessing about the dangers of the sun and focus on the benefits (Vitamin D, as someone mentioned above), stop panicking about mosquitos and ticks and put the risks back into their proper statistical perspective, ban the electronic toys for all but an hour or two a day.

Or maybe just turn off the air conditioner.

ricpic said...

Sweet Jesus, is there nothing the gummint won't stick its horny nose into?!

amba said...

It may be that a gender divide needs to be considered, before the one-size-fits-all idea imposes itself.'

rhhardin: you and Thurber are full of sh*t.

amba said...

Kids aren't outside any more for 3 reasons:

1) Fear of predators. I've read that the actual rate of predation hasn't gone up and that this is a media scare tactic. (Long report at that link from the Skeptical Inquirer. Ironically, though, one of the biggest panics is about online predators, so they're not even safe inside.) This is probably made worse by the breakdown of neighborhood community ties (kids are driven in and out to activities in tank-like SUVs; many mothers are at work; and I cannot believe that the planned suburban development is as conducive to keeping an eye on each other's kids as the funky old neighborhood that "just growed."

2.) Overdevelopment. There just aren't enough overgrown back yards and leftover woodsy patches for kids to play in.

3.) Screens are neurologically addictive. As witness the fact that I'm sitting and staring at one right now instead of going outside. (It's also in the humid 90s outside.) As witness the fact that large outdoor screens will attract the attention of people standing and waiting for a bus at an airport, e.g., who could be watching the passing 3-D scene instead. And tiny thumb-sized screens rivet the attention of people riding in a subway or airplane. Kids have to be forced away from their screens the same way adults do. There's something hypnotic and autistic about it.

The human nervous system evolved in response to the intricate sensory detail of nature, but maybe if kids aren't intensively exposed to that in the first year of life they imprint on screen images instead. (Hypothesized to be one possible cause of autism, btw.)

When we were kids, TV was small and black-and-white. Outdoors was much more interesting, and inside urban Chicago there were lots of little patches of "wilderness" to play wild animals or Indians in. The neighborhood was a community where mothers kept an eye out for the gang of kids, and it was so safe that we went trick-or-treating all over the neighborhood without adult accompaniment.

amba said...

My child's pediatrician told me to tell them that they were abusing their kids by not allowing them to come into direct contact with the dirt from which life springs, or some such. He was a cool doc!

Jane: he knew something about the immune system, too.

Anonymous said...

Great points, amba. Meant to respond to your comments re gender and acitivity on another blog, but that thread got away from me.

We cancelled cable, didn't let the TV be a babysitter and reserved viewing for just a few shows and movies and nearly always as a family so that it wouldn't become an addictive solitary pleasure. Later, the comp was used only for drafting stories and papers, doing math and art, etc. Not until the mid teens did child go on the net. Not sure how enforceable that would be these days.

Ours wasn't, but reluctant children need to be forced out of their air-conditioned bubbles and away from their electric-magnetic fields. They need to scrape their knees and come in with grass burrs stuck to their socks from green fields. They should make yummy mud pies and wicked spears from branches.

Both boys and girls.

Unknown said...

This is one of the week's most interesting stories, because it illustrates just what happens when the government taxes most families at the 50% level (and yes, you pay 50% even if you don't think you do).

Kids aren't allowed out of the house because their mothers are not at home ... they are at work.

Now, that might sound sexist, but it really isn't. Men have always been the hunter/gatherers and mothers have always served the role of protector of the family.

It would be irresponsible for parents to let their kids roam if they are not there to look after them.

When I was a kid, of course, my mom was at home (just like your's probably was). That wasn't enough, however. What was needed was, as Hillary said, a whole village of mom's at home, all watching not just their own kids, but every other mother's kids too.

My mom could confidently let me walk a mile to school each day because she knew that along the way, I'd pass 15 other neighborhood mothers, all on lookout for creeps and predators.

Now ... all the mom's are at work, and the only people left on the street watching out for kids are the pedophiles.

What kind of society can long survive such a dynamic.

So ... what do do. Well, America decided the best thing to do was to stop having children.

I only had one. You probably had one or two. My mom had 6, her mom had 6. Most mothers had 4. It kept America vibrant and alive.

Now, America is dying because we can't afford to have children because we are all quasi-slaves to our government ... giving half of what we make to it. We must import children from Mexico to pay for our old age.

And so now the government has the temerity to tell us to put our kids out into the streets with all the creeps and perverts.

What a world.

Anonymous said...

I pay a lot of taxes and was a stay-at-home mom. But one would hope even working moms wouldn't choose to let their children be shut-ins as they grow up, rationalized by scheduling probs, kids' preferences or parental worries. Youngsters all day indoors every day except for to and from the car is a form of deprivation, really, rather like raising your kid only on soda and Hot Pockets.

Re dangers:

Just think of the days when colds more easily turned into deadly pneumonia and cuts and scrapes got infected with killer bacteria. Many kids managed to survive the days of no antibiotics, no safety helmets on cycle or horse, mean and maladjusted neighbors and rogue highwaymen. Perhaps the argument is that our fewer children are more precious today, but all round safety has exponentially increased and to love a child is to try to give it the best. Outdoor play is some of the best.

Freeman Hunt said...

A couple days ago I saw a boy riding his bike without his hands on the handle bars, and I thought, I remember doing that. Then as he came closer I saw that his hands were busy texting on a cellphone. Oh.

Unknown said...

You lived in a different world than my brother and I, Slim. We wandered for miles on and off our bikes. We walked to Jr & Sr High, both being maybe four and six miles respectively.

No cadres of watchful moms. Just kids with some street savvy. Not something that is taught indoors.

Synova said...

I disagree, Slim, that we can't afford to have children. Of course we can!

What we can't afford is a house big enough so that each child can have his or her very own bedroom, new cars, stereos, a computer for each, new clothes instead of hand-me-downs or from the thrift shop, $100 shoes, Gameboys, vacations and eating out and then pay for college for each.

Four $40 thin as tissue shirts from the Buckle that are supposed to be worn all at once in layers.

We don't have *less* money, we have more. But just like all the other parenting stuff, our expectations are now that children are sooooo expensive to have. But kids didn't used to have three or four paid activities like music lessons or dance or gymnastics. Parents didn't used to drive them all over either. Heck, Mom maybe didn't even have a car!

Along with kids entertaining themselves outside in the neighborhood (which doesn't cost much) went the idea that what you really needed for life was good grades and love. Now you need *things*.

Before I got out of the Air Force I was talking to an Airman younger than myself. She couldn't understand why I was leaving to stay home with kids. She asked, "Don't you want to buy them things?"

We can *afford* just as many children as we ever could. Better than we ever could.

blake said...


I don't buy that screens are addictive in a really meaningful sense. I don't experience any sense of withdrawal when I stop using them.


I find that even without lots of paid lessons, without a house big enough for everyone to have their own room, without private schools (but with home schooling--I wouldn't send my dog to a public school), children are still pretty expensive. The amount I spend on food is staggering. (I remember reading Adele Davis' advice to avoid junk food to cut down the food budget, but these days, non-junk food is substantially more expensive.)

Actually, my 12-year-old (who has a fascination with economics driven by his early exposure to computer games) started working out the cost and said, "You could've been rich if you didn't have any kids!"


Revenant said...

Slim999's got a pretty bitter view of life in America today, but it isn't an accurate one.

The streets aren't any more dangerous today than they were thirty years ago. Statistically speaking, in fact, they're a lot safer. The big change since then is that parents are fed a lot of nonsense about dangers that are unlikely to ever affect them or their children.

As for not being able to afford children, that's nonsense. You just can't afford children and keep living like a single person with tons of disposable income. Guess what -- you never could!

amba said...

Men have always been the hunter/gatherers and mothers have always served the role of protector of the family.

Slim999: Nope. Look again. Men were the hunters and women were the gatherers. Hunting involved leaving the family for days at a time, following game. Gathering (and hunting small game) could be done nearby while carrying babies. Men were the protectors and women were the feeders and clothers. And shelterers, in some societies where it was women's job to build dwellings. Weaving cloth was a woman's job in some (e.g. Navaho) and a man's job in others (Pueblo).

Women have always worked their butts off, not only nurturing but providing; they just worked at and near home. Men came and went.

amba said...

Also, it is likely that because women were gathering grains, they discovered agriculture.

Dan S. said...

"Men have always been the hunter/gatherers and mothers have always served the role of protector of the family.

Oh, mammoth-sh*t. (or should that be aurochs-pucky?) At best, men have been the hunters (in some cases, alongside women and even kids- buffalo jumps, for example) while women have done most of the gathering, but even that's not 100% correct. With societies increasingly involved/dependent on small-to-large scale agriculture, you get all sorts of variations - women and men doing different aspects in the same field, either women or men being primarily involved, men working out in the fields and women working in (often quite substantial) 'gardens, etc.

The general pattern is that men have always worked and women have always worked, with women's tasks being adapted - to a greater or lesser degree - to the fact that they got the bearing and a lot of the caring for small children (past five years old, a good bit less, whether because they're in school, running errands/working/playing in the streets/etc.). Outside the elite, the kind of economically useless mom that slim999 imagines almost everyone had was an almost unprecedented historical phenomena largely limited to the white middle and upper-working classes at a very specific point, and due to some specific economic and social circumstances - the intentional adoption of higher wages intended for a male breadwinner, eventually followed by postwar prosperity and the kind of deals struck between management and labor, etc. Other issues aside, one should note that there is a stubborn and absurd resistance in the US to adapting the current system back to this age-old pattern, however altered by the little details of modern life, (like education, birth control, the fact that many women, as soon as they get the choice, prefer smaller families if mass production isn't required to insure that some survive and keep the family alive, increased egalitarianism, etc). Instead, there are frantic attempts to keep women out of the workplace, to block any kind of accommodation that helps working caregivers (male or female), etc.

Anonymous said...

Yea, Amba and Dan!

"Also, it is likely that because women were gathering grains, they discovered agriculture." Amba

Or at least alcohol :)

(Did I just lose my Republican 1st wave feminist credentials?)

amba said...

Blake: I experience only relief when I stop using screens. I just find it very hard to stop using them.

You made an excellent point when you said that non-junk food is substantially more expensive than junk food. You could have non-junk food and keep the cost down, but you'd have to ... "just add time." By shopping for the healthy fresh and bulk foods that are on sale that week, and then preparing them yourself, you could make the price competitive with junk food . . . but not when you reckon in the time.

amba said...

dan: add to that that before the institution of public schooling (and even after, in the mornings, evenings, and summers), older children did a lot of caring for younger siblings past infancy.

amba said...

I should add, especially girls. Boys looked out for their little brothers, though.

Unknown said...

OK ... let me put it another way.

When I was a kid, and school got out at 3:30pm in the afternoon, I walked home and my parent was there waiting for me.

My mom wasn't in a boardroom ... but that certainly didn't make her "economically useless."

She created 6 producers of Gross National Product and 6 taxpayers.

I have created 1.

You do the math. As an economic engine, my mother ROARED.

Folks ... if you AND your spouse work, who is taking care of your children, I ask? The answer is: somebody else who simply cannot care about their well-being the way you would.

Super Mario is raising your kid.

No society can withstand BOTH parents not having much of any role in the raising of their own children.

Ours cannot afford it, not because we want McMansions and Lexi ... but because we do not have the time to raise enough children to support us in our retirement.

The US Senate is about to legalize 20 million people because we are not producing children ourselves.

Women aren't having children because they don't have time for it. They're too busy with their careers. I'm not criticizing them ... they have no choice. Their husbands can't make enough money to send their kids to college AND pay 50% of their earnings in state, federal and local income taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes. Sheesh, the list goes on and on.

Single-income families cannot cope with the tax burden. It's as simple as that.

So Johnny can't go out and play anymore.

Anonymous said...


We do have choices, and many single-income families can get along just fine. Some of them need to change their material expectations, that's all. But more often than not, after taxes, child care expenses, work clothing, transportation costs, etc., that second income isn't all that helpful. Sure, many of us would like to see taxes reduced, as you seem to be advocating. But to blame our family habits on Uncle Sam is to play the victim card and admit to abject passivity and an inability to make healthy, sefl-responsible choices.

Most two-income families I know still manage to raise great kids who get to see the light of day in their yards, the local park, and on the soccer field. They just either have to juggle the adults' schedules more agilely than the rest of us need to or do without some extracurriculars.

TMink said...

Amba, interesting comments. Thanks for posting them. I was interested in reading the screens and autism article but could not get the link to work. Did it work for you?


Synova said...

Both men and women have always worked *at home*. Oh, sure, hunting and stuff and what not, but mostly at home. Adults and children together. Mostly. To go back to this pattern (Dan) one would have to be among those few advocating both parents at home rather than both parents working away from home.

There were also, for quite a few times and places, some element of fostering of young relatives to help with chores and babies. Also, old people lived with their families and helped with chores and babies.

I am quite curious about this absurd reluctance of people in the US... "to block any kind of accommodation that helps working caregivers (male or female), etc."

What the heck does that mean? Blocking what? Universal state funded child care? Paid year long maternity leave? What?

If we want to go back to an "everyone works" pattern without going back to "everyone works at home and the kids work too" I don't suppose that we're going *back* to anything at all.

One parent staying at home taking care of children is no less "everyone works" than any other sort of arrangement. It's a division of labor. One parent does one sort of work while the other parent does a different sort of work so that all the work gets done.

Kathy said...

I stay home. I go outside with my kids, because they're too little to be outside all by themselves (since no one else is around during the day in our neighborhood), but I don't orchestrate their activities out there. I keep the house really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter, so the differential between inside and outside temperature is not so severe. I severely restrict TV and computer time. (Those last two items should get me major environmental props, by the way!)

Surprise, surprise! My kids play outside. Being in our yard (even our big 1/2 acre yard) gets boring after awhile, so we take outings to state parks and other places for hours at a time on occasion just to liven things up. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, they even choose going outside over watching a video during their one 30-minute TV slot per day. (And these are girls, by the way.) My 6yodd loves to put on her "mud clothes" and go use a hoe to dig a hole in a designated area in the backyard when we've had some rain to soften the clay soil.

LoafingOaf said...

While it seems a safe assumption that kids stay indoors a lot more nowadays, I still see kids outside everywhere. I live across the street from a schoolyard and hear the pinging of aluminum baseball bats all summer long, as well as the music from the ice cream truck that apparently is able to stay in business. All down my street kids shooting hoops, playing on their homemade skateboard ramps, and practicing lacrosse on their front yards and driveways. And the local pool was pretty jammed with kids yesterday.

I'm sure inside many of the houses there are kids having marathon sessions on their Wiis and Xboxes. But that's pretty fun, too, so why wouldn't they.

I dial with my thumb because the keypads in all my phones are in the handpiece. That's the easiest way to dial on most modern phones - otherwise you'd have to use two hands.

Dan S. said...

Amba - yep. Just pulled out my battered copy of Children of Different Worlds (Whiting and Edwards 1988) - an oldy but mostly a goody - and it mentions that families in the majority of nonindusrialized societies generally use kids -mostly in the 6 to 10yr range, with a (very understandable!) preference for the older end - as child nurses. - There are even a few cases - with 2-3 year olds, not younger kids - where older boys are as likely or even (1 instance) more likely to be looking after the little kids, although overall girls definitely get the lion's share of babysitting.

- Interestingly, it also states that while moms/women always, in the study and general literature, are the primary caregiver/s, the extent to which that's the case varies rather widely - ironically, if I'm understanding a pretty tangental reference correctly, hunter-gatherer societies tend to have relatively high levels of paternal responsibility, since whenever the guy's home he's actually home (along with other factors).

And don't, of course, forget other bits of extended family!

Re: screens, nature, etc . . . Fwiw, as somebody with ADD (diagnosed way back in the day when it was still being called "minimal brain dysfunction," and let me tell you, I had an anxious year or two wondering it it was the dysfunction or the brain that was minimal, or worse, if I had a minimal brain and the darn thing couldn't even manage that right!), I tend to experience a really marked change in experience being outdoors, esp. in nature, in terms of feeling much more . . . hmm - right/centered/focused? Sure, I can spend hours staring at various kinds of screens, and will get sucked in effortlessly - it's stimulation, after all, but it's a very different kind of thing - I would have to describe it as feeling somehow shallow or hollow? - and pop out the other end feeling if anything more distracted, if anything. I certainly don't want to claim too much for that, though.

slim999 - yes, and as amba and I have been saying, that experience was really a rather anomalous one - certainly not something inscribed into the depths of human (pre)history. Perhaps "economically useless" come across a bit harsh,* but what you're kind of talking about - no offense to your mom, nor her service to the Fatherlan- I mean, to the GNP (oops, there I go again . . . and really, that isn't fair: six kids is no small achievement) - is women being the means of production, so to speak, rather than being in some relation to them . . . (And also vaguely echoing the cult of domesticity's definition of women's role as producing and raising virtuous citizens. Again, that's no small potatoes - the issue is when that's presented as the only thing . . .).

"No society can withstand BOTH parents not having much of any role in the raising of their own children."

I agree that's not a good thing, for parents, kids, and maybe even society. That's why I'm all for policies and/or legislation that makes it easier for working parents to spend time with their kids, from genuine flexibility, better childcare, actually sane amounts of parental leave (as opposed to what we have now) and etc., including policies that help working families in general. If one is deeply concerned about this, I trust - as things stand now - that one probably should tend to vote for Democrats, and in at least this area lean a little left . .

"Their husbands can't make enough money to send their kids to college AND pay . . . single-income families cannot cope with the tax burden. It's as simple as that."

And of course, if one's talking progressive taxation and making college more affordable (well, see my previous sentence).

Now, if one's genuine concern is all tangled up with anxiety over changing gender roles and suchlike, then one might be more attracted to a party that trumpets social conservatism, even as it helps tear up the social fabric, and ultimately doesn't really help matters . . . but hey . . .

* - and, looking at preview, as synova points out, childcare, etc. is work, albeit unpaid. And indeed, sometimes it's a very practical division of labor. I'd like to see us try, as a society, to arrange things so that it's a) increasingly available b) as one option (among others).

" What the heck does that mean? Blocking what?"
Even the extremely meek and mild FMLA faced - well, look for example at the vote in the '93 Senate (I'll note that only 15 of the 71 Ayes had a R after their name, and only 2 of the 27 Nays had a D) . . .

" Universal state funded child care? Paid year long maternity leave? What?"

Well, given my ideological affinities, I rather like these suggestions -as a start! - but I'm open to other ideas . . .

Dan S. said...

Sorry to suddenly get all DNC-bot on you guys, though. I probably should go outside and play . . .

Synova said...

Don't worry about the DNC-bot thing, Dan.

Just consider this... people might oppose some of those things without it having much of anything to do with forcing old fashioned division of labor, that flash-in-the-pan era of the 1950's stay at home housewife.

The opposition might have more to do with different people having a different understanding about how economics works and what is ultimately in my best interest.

Because I'm a woman with children makes me no more prone to one sort of economic understanding than any man is made to have economic opinions because he is a man.

Unknown said...


You wrote: "But to blame our family habits on Uncle Sam is to play the victim card and admit to abject passivity and an inability to make healthy, sefl-responsible choices."

Let me clear it up so nobody think's I'm doing what you claim.

Uncle Sam isn't the problem.

YOU and I are the problem.

You and I reelect the exact same politicians who got us here - 98% of incumbents are re-elected.

Hillary Clinton ... who voted to send us to war in Iraq ... is about to be nominated by her party for the Presidency. By the anti-war party!

As long as we elect politicians who tax us at 50% levels, we will not have time for kids ... simple as that.

Single-income families cannot "make it" if "make it" means being able to buy a house and put all of your children through college. That was the American dream.

And we give up on that dream ... you and I ... every time we vote.

Uncle Sam the problem?

Nope. The problem is us.

blake said...

Hey, this has been a good non-hostile topic! Did all the trolls get sucked into "The Sopranos" onion ring vortex?

I think there's definitely something to the notion that kids used to spend more time with their parents. When you're a caveman, isn't every day "take your child to work" day?

My grandparents had one and two children respectively, my children's parents--also one and two children. We have four (so far) homeschooled, single-income, and I work from home, regardless of whether I could make more working elsewhere.

Can we put 'em through college? I don't know. I don't know that it's all that important. (Though a homeschooled kid should be able to get a scholarship pretty easily.) Maybe if it's harder and requires a bit more planning, they'll be at college because they want to be, not because they feel they must.

Interesting note, while my wife could get a job, most of that money would be eaten by taxes. So in that sense, taxes are an incitement to stay home with the kids.

Once again: Heh.

Anonymous said...

Who is Uncle Sam, Slim? Not the government we vote in and the administrators they appoint and policies voted upon and enacted?

Your complaint was about taxes and now you're wrapped up in semantics. Fine. I'm Republican, btw :), and will not vote for a candidate of any party who wants to raise taxes, (short of a national security emergency and the extra monies are strictly dedicated, etc). Hillary's pretty upfront about wanting more of us to "sacrifice" on the tax front for super big domestic programs. No thank you.

Re incumbents: except for the fringe ones, all Presidential candidates have held office and been potentially corrupted by the system, if that's what you're implying. At the Congressional level a lot of candidates are lackluster, incumbents or not. It's impossible to know whether and how fast a newbie will succumb to special interests and put cool cash in the the freezer. We need a more impartial media for citizen oversight, but we might as well believe in wood elves.

But I'm not understanding how you can assert that single-income families can't afford houses or to put their children through college, (both enshrined as "rights" somehow these days) when many of us have.

Dan S. said...

"Hey, this has been a good non-hostile topic! Did all the trolls get sucked into "The Sopranos" onion ring vortex?

Yay! I've been starting to forget what that's like . . . - I think that indoor/outdoor kids is one of those topics that cuts across (and around) a lot of ideological lines (I'm guessing that Matt Y., for example, isn't particularly interested in it) - even more, one where the (cultural) right and left tend to end up in a pretty similar place, even if they got there via some rather different premises. And to top it off, even when folks disagree, it's rarely the sort of thing to get yelly over - though I have seen that happen, when it gets sucked into the mommy wars . . .

And frankly, I'd guess probably all the explanations given here have some truth to them, even those where I might disagree rather irritatedly with the backstory (and in fact, the more working parents bit ties into the media panic, both playing into guilt and making it even less likely that kids will be roaming about unsupervised, for better and worse; the phenomena of the overscheduled suburban kid being ferried from one enrichment activity to the next arguably has a lot to do with middle class status anxiety, etc., etc. , etc. . .)

"When you're a caveman, isn't every day "take your child to work" day?

I'm waiting to see that in the next GEICO ad. But - a little bit along the lines of synova's 3:37 comment - there is a certain argument - take it or leave it - that kids have become way too walled off from the adult world, and artificially crammed together in a never-land of disconnected and (at least apparently) meaningless tasks with few chances for real accomplishment or much genuine adult mentoring (ie, high school). Certainly nobody want to bring back child labor, but it's intriguing to consider what else the world might look like. Now, something along the lines of quasi-self-sufficient families working at home as an economic unit (it's interesting that you get folks sorta leaning towards this from both ends, from the quiverfulls to the organic sustainable solar-paneled planet-saving sorta thing), that's too radical for me (not to mention very unlikely and economically just bizarre), but . . . .

Unknown said...

Last year 60 minutes did a a great piece on coddled kids inability to work in the real world. CEO's were saying there 20 somethings need constant supervision and have no inititive. They are failing.

I live in a well off neighborhood thats split between the coddlers and the parents (like me) who let their kids roam (um..fully awrae that there is a 50 percent chance they will be abducted by a crazy...)and climb trees and get hurt and actually let them wait in the cold for the bus.

For the parents, it kinda breaks down over poiltical lines too. The coddlers aint Republicans.

I can't wait till our kids compete in the real world.

Synova said...

Dan: (it's interesting that you get folks sorta leaning towards this from both ends, from the quiverfulls to the organic sustainable solar-paneled planet-saving sorta thing)

When I was learning about homeschooling 16 years ago and talking to people I found very often that those two groups had met, quite neatly, all the way round to the other side.

These days it's more acceptable and there are more school-at-homers, which is okay too. But there's no doubt it was the fringe on both ends of the spectrum that pioneered what was in all ways a radical lifestyle choice.

Anonymous said...


Mine was home-schooled, allowed to live her quiverfull fantasies, taught to appreciate the outdoors and museums, taken to church but exposed to classic mythology and other faiths to include paganism, raised rather green but to appreciate industry and the military, too, etc. Am Republican and talked political philosophy and issues with her at home, and she's managed to stay a liberal Repub to conservative Libertarian in the middle of Manhattan. Btw, she’s earning a really fine living just now.

My point to yours is that some of us are either confused or synthesizing into hybrids. Or, maybe mutants :)

Synova said...

I think my kids would like the idea of being mutants...

And would agree that their parents are fairly mutant-like. :-)

Revenant said...

Last year 60 minutes did a a great piece on coddled kids inability to work in the real world. CEO's were saying there 20 somethings need constant supervision and have no inititive. They are failing.

60 Minutes is about half a step above the Weekly World News. They go looking for exciting stories, not accurate ones.

I deal with younger employees all the time. They're a fine group of people, no different from the way that I and my peers were when I was that age. Yes, they need guidance, but that's because they're new to the industry. If they didn't need guidance, we wouldn't be paying them entry-level salaries. :)

blake said...


Good point. I was sort of nodding about the "60 Minutes" thing when I realized it doesn't really hold up from what I've seen.


No one wants to bring back child labor? Hell, I do (will and have). My kids won't give me any option, frankly. I'd hire my 12-year-old in a heartbeat, and I plan to use the fact that he can't get a "real" job to encourage him to start a business (which he wants to do very much).

My 6yo would make a great courier. And who wouldn't love to see a cute, polite little girl bringing them their mail?

I was really woefully unprepared for the real world in a lot of ways, and I got by because I had certain skills (self-taught) that were particularly profitable.

Child labor laws were really an attempt by labor unions to create shortages. Or so I've heard. And believe. Kids can kick our asses in so many ways, I understand being intimidated by them.

I have to believe that if more kids were exposed to "the jobs Americans won't do", it would have a profound effect on them. Those summer jobs and scut work show one the value of a good education, of being one's own boss, of money, etc.

If you want to stop the excessive coddling of kids, start there, I say. (Actually, I don't care if others find it abhorrent, I just wish it hadn't been made illegal.)

TMink said...

I am not sure I agree with the point that it is just as safe outside as it always was.

Sexual perpetrators fall into three groups, people who perp one child, those who perp 2 to 10, and people who perp 11 to 400. Yep, 400.

The last group is organized. They have websites, the share children, porno, and strategies. I wonder if they infiltrated some parrishes, but that is another discussion. I think that these perpetrators are more, well, effecient and are perping more children.

I also wonder if more direct justice in an earlier time also served as a deterent. Vigilanty action is not my cup of tea, but I secretly, and with some guilt wonder if it was effective.

Or maybe I just see too much of the effects of this type of thing to have an accurate perspective on it.


howzerdo said...

amba: thanks for the link to the autism/early tv watching info!(TMink, the link worked for me.) I read the whole study - lots of food for thought.

TMink said...

Howzerdo, it worked for me too!

I am always a bit skeptical about this kind of study, and while it is obvious that a lot of time and thought went into the study, it is also obvious what the research was looking for. They may be on to something, or it could be a pollutant that is washed into the environment by the rain.

A stronger critique is that autism is now diagnosable at a very early age, and I wonder how much less younger children play outside, and how much more they watch tv, when it rains. Also, amount of time watching tv is likely closely tied to parent ses and lots of other potentially and likely confounding variables.

Having said that, they certainly might be onto something, but this type of research is not great at finding causality.

Thanks for posting it.


howzerdo said...

Trey, I think everyone else is doing ad hom about o-rings!

I know a child who displays signs of Asberger's and she fits the profile of excessive early TV watching (she was plugged in since birth, starting with hours of Baby Einstein). She has high SES parents. I'm not even close to suggesting the TV is causal (even though I am not at all a fan of TV), but the difference between her behavior and that of non-exposed kids I know is striking.

What interested me especially in this study was that the researchers came from economics/public policy, not ed psych (as an educator that is the research on autism that I encounter most often). The use of weather was an interesting way to try to measure TV watching, although I'm not sure how precise that could be, although the increase in access to cable helps here. And the parent-reported TV watching hours strike me as way (!) underestimating the time kids are actually watching TV. Still, I thought the brief mentions of the Amish and also the issue of how quickly one disengages from TV were fascinating. The research suggests a lot of possible areas for future study.

TMink said...

I am with you on the areas for future study. There are some interesting areas of thought, but I hope the future studies are a bit more direct in their measurement rather than convoluted in their correlational assumptions.

Maybe I am just griping because I had to work so hard to follow the stats!