Writer, editor, professor, etc. For more information, see jaygabler.com.
With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world. It’s not just that they’ve been given unprecedented amounts of stuff—clothes, toys, cameras, skis, computers, televisions, cell phones, PlayStations, iPods. (The market for Burberry Baby and other forms of kiddie “couture” has reportedly been growing by ten per cent a year.) They’ve also been granted unprecedented authority. “Parents want their kids’ approval, a reversal of the past ideal of children striving for their parents’ approval,” Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, both professors of psychology, have written. In many middle-class families, children have one, two, sometimes three adults at their beck and call. This is a social experiment on a grand scale, and a growing number of adults fear that it isn’t working out so well: according to one poll, commissioned by Time and CNN, two-thirds of American parents think that their children are spoiled.
Elizabeth Kolbert considers new research on American family life the phase of adultesence: http://nyr.kr/L9sCOG
This is why people in academia warned me I’d hate journalism. I don’t, but…come on, New Yorker. I’ll bet two-thirds of parents in any society, anywhere, ever, think their kids are spoiled. Some of the first known writing about children in human history, from the ancient Fertile Crescent, says that kids are getting too spoiled. Seriously, I’m not even making that up.
“Are kids spoiled?” is the least interesting question you can ask about childhood, and yet it’s the one that gets asked again and again and again, and the answer is always, “Obviously, yes,” but nothing ever changes BECAUSE IT’S PART OF A FUCKING DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION OBSERVED IN EVERY SINGLE DEVELOPING SOCIETY EVER IN HUMAN HISTORY.
As society develops, both mortality and fertility drop. There are fewer kids, and each kid inevitably gets more attention. THAT’S JUST HOW IT WORKS. We’re not going back to the Victorian Era or the Industrial Revolution—let alone the dawn of agriculture—so just let the kids have their goddamn cell phones and STFU.
(I said this in a slightly more nuanced fashion here.)