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The Lafayette Ledger

The Lafayette Ledger

Modernity is Ruining Childhood

Let’s let kids just be kids…
A childhood unknown to kids in the modern. (probably)
A childhood unknown to kids in the modern. (probably)

The modern age has brought about the downfall of childhood, and Gen Alpha marks the end of it as we know it. Children these days consume immensely more media, as well as lower quality media, than ever before. 10 years ago you’d be hard-pressed to drive through a neighborhood and not see a group of kids biking, playing football, Capture the Flag, or shooting Nerf.

Kids playing a classic game of capture the flag.

Now I know how this sounds, very ‘Kids these days, get off my lawn!’ And that’s true, every generation has complaints about their successors. It seems everyone thinks the music or the politics or the “hard-work” of their days were better, but this is different. I recognize that even in my own childhood the quality was faltering, but it’s really gone off the deep end now.

In recent years dopamine has become a bit of a buzzword. It’s said social media floods your brain with dopamine, keeping us addicted, as well as reducing the happiness you get from real rewarding actions. While this is a bit of a simplification of the science going on in your brain, it captures the gist of it. This is especially damaging to children with vulnerable brains not yet wired to understand natural dopamine hits like exercise, sleep, and nature. Excess levels of dopamine is linked to mania and obesity, which could explain the trending increase of Adolescent BPD and Childhood Obesity

Quality is just as big of a perpetrator as quantity, though.  Children have always consumed media, but modern creation is a shell of its former self. It is no longer for art, it’s for money. Let’s take cartoons, the creators of cartoons used to have to painstakingly draw and color every frame to make a simple animation. The work necessary to be poured into the piece ensured animators cared about what they were doing, you would not spend hundreds of hours on something you thought was low quality. Now all it takes is an idea and a computer. It is by no means instant, but many networks now will just throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks, with the less profitable ideas being dropped. Quality is no longer of concern as long as it gets a bite.

Traditionally drawn cartoon (left) vs. Computer generated content (right.) Woody Woodpecker is better content than Wish.

It’s not just the creation of media that puts quality on the backburner, the rise of algorithm based distribution again prioritizes profit over high grade content. Platforms like TikTok and trends like the ‘MrBeastification’ of YouTube cater to the ever-dwindling attention spans of young consumers. Do you remember watching the nature channel as a kid, indifferent to the topic because it was either that or the 5 o’clock news, and watching in anticipation as a jaguar stalked its prey, waiting for the moment to strike? That does not pass the Algorithm. If it’s not a 3 second clip of someone winning $100,000, no one wants to see it. This sort content is harmful to undeveloped brains who should be learning not passively consuming at the rate they do, yet its all you will find on the trending pages.

With just about everything in the world headed to hell in a handbasket, childhood is no outlier. Boredom is the first step to wonder, but boredom is simply outdated in the modern age. I guess only time can tell where this will lead us, but I dont have high hopes.

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