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Children today growing up in different world

The other day a friend and I were discussing all the scarynationwide news of Amber Alerts, and the missing children who areoften reported by the various media outlets. We began comparing howparenting has changed from when we were growing up.

We agreed that, no, things aren’t necessarily “worse” or lesssafe than they were when we were young. But with the Internet andaccess to information, it just feels that way.

As a result, I think parents are more cautious – and aware – ofpotential dangers lurking in the shadows.

I remember the children I knew as being much more independentand having a lot more freedom than children today have.

I was a latchkey kid beginning in the first grade. My brother,who is two years older than me, and I would walk home from schooland entertain ourselves until my mom got home from work. We werenever afraid, and also managed to not kill each other or burn thehouse down.

My children, by contrast, were in daycare while I worked. Icouldn’t fathom the idea of either of them being left alone foreven a couple of hours. Visions of flames and destruction were allI could think of.

The house I grew up in was in the middle of a huge developingsubdivision, surrounded by pine trees and woods that contributed tomany hours of fun and make believe.

It also was where I once buried my brother’s G.I. Joe “actionfigure” in retaliation to what I considered unfair harassment by mybrother and some of his friends. I bet that G.I. Joe would be worthpretty good money today; it is currently residing in the masterbathroom foundation of the home across from my old house.

I marvel at the things that I used to do when I was younger than8 years old, from riding my bike miles away – on one of the busierstreets in Hattiesburg – just to get to my favorite blackberrypatch, to cooking supper for my family without my mom or dadaround.

When picking blackberries, I would encounter snakes, mice, etc.No problem. I avoided them and they avoided me.

Today I would never dream of allowing my girls to wander faraway from home or cook unattended – and perhaps it was better thatmy mom, for the most part, didn’t really know where all I went whenI was out of the house.

We never stayed in the house all day.

Saturday mornings consisted of one or two hours of early morningcartoons, breakfast, then throwing on play clothes and clearing outof the house to meet up with all of my friends. We would have a dayfull of playing in the creek, climbing trees, and using ourimaginations. We would roll back in for lunch and then were goneagain until dark.

My mother never wrung her hands at my being gone for hours at atime, and certainly didn’t fuss when I headed out to play.

Saturday mornings don’t seem so special for today’schildren.

Modern children are computer savvy and most have access to videogames and the Internet at will.

Cartoons are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, onmultiple channels.

Most of today’s children wouldn’t begin to know how to create amake-believe world if stuck outside with no props or toys. My girlsdo love to ride their bikes, play basketball, and run with theirfriends. But I still find myself glancing quite often out thewindow to make sure they are safe.

I can’t say things are better or worse today from when I was akid.

They are definitely different, with children having access to somuch more information – and dangers – than we did when we werecoming along.

As parents, we certainly have more tools to keep up with ourchildren, but have to skate the edge of allowing our children tobecome so over protected that they don’t have the confidence asadults to try new things and continue to grow.

Perhaps I should just throw my girls out of the house oneSaturday morning for the day and see what they come up with … Ibet they would have a blast. I, on the other hand, would be soworried about their safety that I would be a basket case.

I wonder, who is the watcher and who needs watching?