Man in the mirror: kids are losing their childhoods too quickly


Nathan Stevens all starts with a phone. We see kids around us texting, snapchatting and posting on Instagram, all with their phones, so we want one too. Then one day we look up from our new phones and everyone around us is using laptops to write papers and watch Netflix and so again, we want a laptop too. There we are, sitting at our desks, on our computers, with our smartphones next to us buzzing away and we forget to look up every so often to see time passing us by.

According to a 2016 survey by Influence Central on the role of technology in kids’ lives, the average age for a child to get a smartphone is now 10.3-years-old – elementary school age. Next comes laptops. Sixty-four percent of kids have access to the internet from their own laptop. Constantly upgrading our technology, among other things, pushes kids to grow up faster. But where does it end?

Kids are exposed to far more, far too early. Even on an elementary school playground, it’s not uncommon to hear kids swearing … like, the bad ones. Because of their unfiltered and often unintentional access to the internet, they can see and read about things they’re not ready to yet. Their innocence is evaporating as the world pushes ahead, with or without us.

When we grow older, our aspirations grow with us. Starting at a young age there’s always one more thing we feel we need. However, just like our phones and laptops, we immediately focus our attention to the next “best” thing. We’re never satisfied with what we have and where we are. But it shouldn’t be considered bad to strive for more and better things in life – improvement should never go away. With our society moving too fast, it’s important to take a step back and remember to slow down, not just in terms of what we own, but also what we do.

We’re on a fast track and we don’t realize that eventually, we won’t have summer vacations anymore to go to the beach, take a hike or spend time with our friends – that will all be left in the past.”

It can be seen all over campus. Whether it’s taking a math class over the summer to get into the next, more advanced level, or taking Spanish One in eighth grade to get ahead, we are always in a rush to move onto the next thing without fully understanding the importance of what we are leaving behind. That may seem helpful in the short term, but continuously cutting corners and speeding through our education only serves to harm our chances at longer term learning and our emotional well-being.

There’s an unspoken pressure to keep moving forward especially in school, and in the process, we look down on others who are moving at their normal pace. In our culture, people are considered “dumb” if they don’t take the hardest math class available or many AP courses. Our summer internships and SAT classes are more common than relaxing summers. We forget things like going to the beach, hiking or spending time with our friends.

Teachers talk about the fact that we need sleep and “downtime,” and certain teachers even try to make things a little easier for us to get these essentials. But really, it’s not the teachers who are the problem. A lot of the time, it’s us – the way we’re wired.

We’re on a fast track and we don’t realize that eventually, we won’t have summer vacations anymore to go to the beach, take a hike or spend time with our friends – that will all be left in the past.

It’s ironic that people say that time moves too quickly for their liking. That they want it all to slow down, or go back to a “better” time in their lives. Despite saying all this, we almost never appreciate where we are at one specific point in time because we’re already looking to the next.

We can’t put the blame on all the other factors in our lives because we are the ones who take on all these activities. Yes, we live in a competitive environment and we all want to get into top colleges, but the same way we make decisions to stay up all night studying for a test, we should be making the decision to not always put work ahead of things we consider important.

Our childhood is slipping away from us. It’s come to the point where our sense of time has been skewed to match the exponential growth of society so that a normal, more average speed seems wrong.

Although it may feel appropriate to keep up with the speed of everyone else around us, it’s actually forcing us to grow up before we’re ready. No matter how useful it may seem to not “fall behind,” putting work first at the expense of our childhood hurts our development more than it could possibly benefit us.