11 Ways Childhood Has Changed Since The 90s

Few things can make a person feel older than talking to somebody from a younger generation about what childhood is like. Even the difference of 10 years makes for radically contrasting experiences. It’s a wonder that any children raised in the strange and nostalgic era between 1990 and 1999 even made it out alive, if we’ve all but abandoned the parenting techniques by which we we raised because they were such bad ideas. Here are a few things we have since reconsidered in the 10 years since the last of the 90s children were born.

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.

Like, wtf.

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. TC mark

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  • http://christineura.tumblr.com Tin Maralit

    Reblogged this on The Uncut Version and commented:
    The only constant thing in this world is change. But I’m surprised with all the changes.
    And yes, I can actually say, tumtanda na talaga ko. :(

  • http://twitter.com/trishbaden Trish Baden (@trishbaden)

    love this. hahahahahahaha. but seriously. pluto: wtf.

  • SharpieLife

    1. I give you that. The whole moms on the move shit has been ridiculous in the 00s/now
    2. What is Reading Rainbow, Zoom, Barney, Blues Clues, Eurekas Castle, Alegras Window, Gullah Gullah Island, Sesame Street, and the million other educational kids shows from the 90s and before? Nick and Disney both had their kids learning time since the 90s. That’s all PBS ever did for kids
    3. People have been claiming TV rots your brain since TV became a common thing in households. This is not new to current times. And plus, Video games are the new TV, Internet is the new video games in the succession of these things, and the fact that older generations always claim the kids new favorite passtime is rotting their brains
    4. I don’t get this one either
    5. Who cares. I hate people who think they’re funny for always bringing this up. It had no effect on your life at all. Move on. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
    6. The quality of “Adult” programming has hit the skids. Friends was definitely more mature than much sitcoms on TV today. Friends bored the hell out of me when I was a kid, now I rather watch it than that abomination knows a “The Big Bang Theory”.
    7. Yeah in the 90s tech sucked. A lot of experimental failures and stuff that should have never been released. But you had to be a certain type of person(a geek, or rich) to care about tablets, cell phones, the best internet speed, etc.
    8. This one is sarcasm all through right? This is nostalgia talking, and I feel you. But I also know that my nostalgia makes me fond of things that I know that suck now (Sugar Ray)
    9.Yup, I remember for waiting for specials and those new seasons of shows like All That, or Are Your Afraid of the dark. Also remember Disney Channel movies, waiting to see Zenon: The Zequel, or the new Rugrats episode. I used to read the TV Guide as a kid. Now days I can’t keep up with a TV schedule at all, and I’m an adult.
    10.Yeah, i remember when kids clothes were kids clothes. Not mini versions of adult stuff.
    11. Yup, and us 90s kids should follow suit and grow up too.

    • M.gan

      Pluto not being a planet is a big deal!! Its just a strange thing that after x amount of years scientists just go you know what… no it doesn’t count anymore…

  • http://gravatar.com/patfanatic patfanati

    This is awesome. Especially no. 8 (eight), Music is a sad state of affairs. It’s true, with a very few exceptions.

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/07/11-ways-childhood-has-changed-since-the-90s/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

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  • artfule

    1. So I wasn’t the only one who watched Smart House and every other Disney movie when it came out?!

    2. I don’t think latchkey kids exist anymore…They’re like Time Lords. I’m pretty sure I was the last one.

    3. And I seriously cried when Andy left for college. It wasn’t even pretty.

    • Cristina

      Baha… Time Lords…hahahaha

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.scola Brian Scola

    Outside activity is reserved for “travel” or “club” organized sports. During said activity, sun screen must be applied every 2 hours. If one does not participate in organized physical activity they are reserved to being a fat, mouth breathing, video game playing slave to technology.

  • diana

    6. yeah, except game of thrones and true blood are entirely different shows than something like friends. something more comparable could be the big bang theory or how i met your mother.
    8. oh god, can we stop with this? every generation thinks the next generation of pop music sucks. it reminds me of this saturday morning breakfast cereal strip:

    Every conversation about music by everyone over the age of twenty-five: / Man: “I hate what teens listen to. Pop music peaked at the exact moment when I was most emotionally vulnerable to trite love songs.”

    i’m so tired of trite 90s nostalgia for things that are still around in different forms. i understand missing specific aspects of our own childhoods but for so many of these things mentioned in the list there is a comparable present day equivalent.

  • http://literette.wordpress.com Sarah

    This is absolutely fantastic. I am so glad others shared my love for Eric Von Detten, and thank you for reminding me of his name. Until now I have been referring to him as “the guy from Brink.” But really, JTT held the true key to my heart.
    I also still think one of the most monumental moments of my childhood was when Stoop Kid finally left his Stoop.

  • SaraLily

    I could have been a spokeschild for Limited Too. I swear my entire wardrobe was from that place, fashioned to look as close to Miranda and Lizzie from Lizzie McGuire as I could!! haha

    • http://literette.wordpress.com Sarah

      Agreed…or like the Olsen twins, especially in “Two of a Kind.”

  • http://paigemarjorie.wordpress.com Paige Dolton

    Limited Too is now “Justice.” The second I saw that name change in my mall, I knew I had entered adulthood.

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  • Sara

    Can 16/17 year olds be classified as 90s children? I mostly grew up in the early 2000s but I can relate to just every point on this list.

  • http://edwincho.wordpress.com Edwin

    Seriously though, what happened to Pluto? And those times in the computer lab were treasured. I remember blazing through my typing lessons to play Math Blaster and the Oregon Trail.

  • http://heatherwheeler.wordpress.com Heather Wheeler

    Stoop Kid’s afraid to leave his stoop! Stoop Kid’s afraid to leave his stoop! Sarah- I’m not sure how JTT held the key to YOUR heart when it was pretty clear that he held on to mine. Naturally, I would have given him up in a heartbeat for Zack Morris. I miss the days when my bedroom was plastered with BOP and J-14 posters.

    • Valerie

      Oh my gosh I completely forgot about J-14! Those were the days.

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  • sarah

    Loved this! I’m nearly 25 and remember it all :) Very cool.

  • Jess

    I feel really old. I remember all of this, especially #9. Disney channel world premiere movies were always the topic of discussion between my friends and I the next morning. Ceedus Lepedus!

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  • http://drnikkiblog.wordpress.com DrNikkiBlog

    Although, your ideas of ‘risque’ shows are a little off. I remember watching Married: With Children in fourth and fifth grade. I asked a friend if she’d ever seen it, and she said, “I’m not sure.” I said, “It’s a show, and, like, the Dad is mean, and the daughter is kind of a slut…”
    She said, “Yyyyyeah. I’m not allowed to watch that show…”
    When I was 10, my parents took me to the NC-17 premiere of Natural Born Killers….
    It was awesome.

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