11 Ways Childhood Has Changed Since The 90s
1. High fructose corn syrup is now evil.
I mean, it’s never really changed its sugary makeup, and added sugar has probably always been evil, but our parents used to ignore doctor’s sound advice and wire us up to the gills on soda and blue raspberry Gushers. Juice was practically a preventative medicine. Milk came in distant second, and water was an afterthought. But corn syrup? Corn syrup made food last longer, it kept kids awake, and it helped make things chewy and hey, if it could really transform fruit from a pulpy mass to something that you rolled out by the foot, I was game. Today’s children will never know that joy, nor will they know what it feels like to tweak on the crack-like high of Mountain Dew. I feel badly for them.
2. Television is now a learning tool.
When I grew up, we had Ren and Stimpy to guide the way. Now, kids are supposed to be learning at every turn, and that’s exhausting. The best lesson I probably learned from television was that purple dinosaurs helped you clean up your toys, and all I learned from Hey Arnold! was how to hide your crush on a football headed kid by being horrible to him. I still flirt that way to this day. Now, the Juniors (both Nick and Disney) carefully delineate to parents what social and educational skills each show will offer their miniature audience. Wow Wow Wubbzy teaches children how to share and care by nurturing social and emotional development, while simultaneously grating at the nerves of every adult who watches it. Olivia teaches kids about using their imagination, and Handy Manny reinforces stereotypes about Latinos as ingenuous little handy men with a bunch of tools for friends.
3. But too much television now rots your brain.
When I was a kid, my parents would turn on the TV, leave the dogs in the house, and lock the door. Latch key kid security, 101: turn on a TV and nobody will make a single move away from the set and into trouble. Now, kids are being told to go outside for most of the day, which, yes, is great for them as they’re active little snotballs (especially if you load them up on HFCS) and these are the glory days before they’ll have to fork over tons of money for a gym membership that they’ll half resent. But toddlers are doing yoga in Central Park in the middle of the day, and that might be taking things too far. The only yoga I did when I was a kid was when I didn’t know how to pronounce yogurt — that delicious, fake pink goo that was not from Greece and definitely had sugar aplenty.
4. Barbie and Disney princesses are now causes for poor self-esteem.
A five-year-old once told me that she didn’t like to play with Barbie because “she’s not natural,” and while I wanted to kiss the child for not buying into the bullsh-t Barbie brings, I wondered exactly how her mother had managed to teach her something at such a young age. When I was a kid, Barbie and her animated sisters, the Princesses, were the stuff of legend. They taught us that as long as you wanted it, you could be anything or do anything or make any man love you. How many careers did Barbie have? She was President, and a teacher, and an Olympic gymnast, and a dog washer, and sold Oreo cookies. Damn it, she taught us how to multitask! And the Disney princesses, with their tiny waists and hair down to their little princess parts, showed us the enduring power of true love, especially if it was with rich prince-type dudes.
5. Pluto is no longer a planet.
6. Adult programming is now definitely for adults.
If you had cool parents, they would let you stay up with them and watch racy shows like Friends. Now mommy and daddy watch True Blood and Game of Thrones and shows where people drink and smoke and eat solitary Brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving (the horror!), and I don’t think I would have been ready for that at the tender age of nine and three-fifths.
7. Technology is no longer a novelty.
Once upon a time, Oregon Trail was a totally groundbreaking computer game, and we would beg our teachers to go to the “lab” at school devoted to sad little square Macintosh computers. (I still get a twinge of nostalgia when I play it online.) My family also had only one household computer for a long time, which sat proudly and awkwardly in the dining room like that revered great aunt everyone knew they were supposed to love, but were kind of afraid they might kill if they breathed on her. Now, two year olds know how to operate an iPad better than I do.
8. Music is a sad state of affairs.
Once upon a time, pop music had it good. We had ‘N Sync first. We loved Justin Timberlake first, dammit! And the Backstreet Boys. And Savage Garden. Shaggy was considered “rap.” And there was Britney, dear, sweet, glorious Britney before the shaved head and Kevin Federline and every other bit of her downfall. Now, kids have Bieber. And Britney, Redux. And one of the One Direction boys has four nipples. This is unacceptable.
9. Kids no longer base their schedule around a special television event.
Used to be, if you didn’t watch a Disney Channel Original Movie on its world premiere showing, you just weren’t cool. It was like a rite of passage to swoon over Ryan Merriman and Erik Von Detten; the boys wanted to baby bone Zenon, the girl of the 21st century, and everyone loved TGIF. It was the condolences we were thrown for being too young to go out and party. Now, kids have TIVO. They never have to miss anything. Television waits for them to go have a life and do baby yoga in the park, and their shows will still be there for them when they get back.
10. High-end designers now get kids in on the action.
When I was a kid, I wore acid wash unironically and Osh Kosh b’Gosh’d my little butt off until I graduated to the very matchy, glittery look of the Limited Too. Now, Sketchers as we knew them are a thing of the past. Instead, toddlers can get their Diane Von Furstenberg fix at Gap, and grow out of it two weeks later. Oscar de la Renta designs for children. A baby walked in a Chanel runway show. I can’t even afford Chanel lipstick.
11. Today’s kids know everyone actually grows up.
Especially because Andy left Buzz and Woody and went off to college, and I am still traumatized by that fact.
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