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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

How Children Are Aging Today

The new era brings along with it a new generation of children, and their development reflects the ways in which the world has changed and shaped its people.
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The children who are growing up today face different challenges, ones that their grandparents may not have even thought of during their own childhoods. These new challenges reflect changing times and the dawn of a new age. (Photo Credit: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen / Unsplash)

After school hours, students of all ages can be spotted roaming around town with their friends, occupied by a variety of activities. But many students are glued to their phones and lament over responsibilities they must take up as they become older. Tweens have their faces caked in makeup and are talking to their friends about their insecurities regarding their appearances and weights. Comments on diagnosed mental illnesses and personal troubles at home and online fly by. Middle schoolers holding vapes are discussing their next outrageous party or gossiping over their latest romantic “situationship.” The children growing up in this era are aging differently than before.

A major contributor to this change was the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of children had two years of their lives practically frozen in time. This meant that during lockdown and social distancing, children all over the world could not properly learn and exercise important skills. They were missing critical development points in their lives that should have taught them the basics of communication and important knowledge. A common statement that students make is that lockdown changed how they acted and matured. “Aging has been hard after COVID-19 hit. I feel as if I lost the time to experience my tween years, which makes me feel more nostalgic for my childhood,” said Melda Kayatekin ’25. With this loss of time, many kids today feel as though they haven’t actually grown into their age.

Some people who noticed these changes in children’s behavior claim that they are caused by internet culture. Lockdown dramatically increased the use of electronic devices in an attempt to remedy the lack of physical interaction. Now, use of advanced computers and phones have become commonplace, quickening our lives with instant communication and international news that is published just minutes after events take place. Electronics with internet access can be found in nearly every household and are used by people of all ages for all purposes.

But if you take a look at what is being offered to kids on the internet, you would notice a concerning level of inappropriate media being purposefully shown to them. Sex and violence are two of the biggest topics associated with Western culture. Songs praising the overindulgence in promiscuity and pessimism are published by big artists on a daily basis, never failing to hit the charts. Consequently, these lyrics easily reach the ears of young children who begin idolizing the artists and the lifestyles they advertise.

If a famous content creator makes insensitive comments towards a group of people, the children who look up to them could follow suit. They could spread the negativity that originated from the influencer. These children plunge themselves into cycles of cyberbullying without consequence, thanks to the comfort of anonymity on the internet, conditioning themselves into growing comfortable with uncomfortable topics. Continuing this habit desensitizes them from the potentially hurtful words they preach, linking to a lack of empathy that will be detrimental when they end up needing to interact with other people as adults.

As they grow up, children will undoubtedly learn from their environment and the people who raise them. Researchers Marco F. H. Schmidt and Michael Tomasello show that children learn from the system that surrounds them and enforce the social norms they are taught. “When children begin to identify with their cultural group — which more and more research is showing happens at a very young age, based on such things as linguistic accent and common clothing — they understand that part of this group identification is that ‘we’ do things in certain ways” (Schmidt, M. F. H., & Tomasello, M., 2012, p. 234). When beauty standards are advertised on every street and website, children begin normalizing what they see and may impose such standards on themselves and others.

Modern beauty standards pressure a variety of people into believing slim bodies and youthful faces are what should be considered “pretty.” Seeing posters of models with these beauty standards plastered on every wall can cause normal viewers to grow self-conscious. They compare themselves to these people who are accepted to have the “ideal image” and may begin to pressure themselves into unneeded change.

Children, some of whom have not even hit ten years of age, are being increasingly diagnosed with eating disorders due to low self-esteem regarding their weight. They may purposefully abstain from eating food at young ages in an effort to keep up with the growing world of fashion. In this stage of life where nutrition is incredibly vital, this lifestyle will be nothing but detrimental to these children who naturally need to eat in order to supply their growing bodies. The lack of nutrition causes many problems in childrens’ health like stunted growth, worsening mental health, energy deficiency, and many more. Choosing to eat smaller amounts of food than recommended creates a cycle of rapidly declining mental health and stability; third-party influences lead young minds to believe going on diets will make them look pretty, while their diet struggles to regulate bodily functions which over the course of time sacrifices mental health, leading to a worsened state.

Children are highly sensitive to the information and sights they take in because they have so much to learn. Even if they may not understand the full significance of what they witness, they can read the atmosphere and can recognize a time of strife when met with one. Ease of internet access also brings children closer to negative topics like death and violence which they might not be ready to deal with at their age. The combination of a curious child and one wrong click could lead to the child watching videos of violence recorded on someone’s phone. Although the graphic imagery may not have been witnessed in person, and the child may not have had any personal connection with the subjects in the videos, the scene will still have a lasting impact on the child and their juvenile mind.

The twenty-first century’s zeitgeist, defined as the mood or culture of a time period, is one without widespread optimism. Word of war zones in lands far from home as well as native soil navigate to the front pages of media sites on the daily. The biggest examples in recent times include the rise in school shootings, wars such as those in Ukraine and Palestine, and political movements met with violence.

Comparing today’s tense zeitgeist to previous years, the zeitgeist of those previous years was mostly positive and hopeful for the future. For instance the Roaring Twenties in America, a movement which took place after World War I, saw massive growth in the economy and political movements in support of marginalized groups. The baby boomer generation, raised in the years 1946 to 1964, lived through a similar world that flourished after the end of World War II that boasted similar achievements to the Roaring Twenties where America took huge steps forward in progression. In stark contrast, the generations that came after lived through a time where world peace tanked. They began to see economic inflation and political tensions erupting into major conflicts.

The numbers that show changes in child behavior go both ways. Technology caused kids to mentally age without them realizing it, spreading ideas that kids at this age should not have to toil over. Yet the gap in their lives created by the COVID-19 pandemic had quite the opposite effect; kids ended up functioning at a significantly lower level than they should be. Today’s generation is faced with a puzzling conflict; some who learn the struggles of the world too early age noticeably faster, while others cling to the age they were before the pandemic. This new development in human history is leaving undeniable marks on this generation, the effects of which still remain unclear until years to come.

“When children begin to identify with their cultural group — which more and more research is showing happens at a very young age, based on such things as linguistic accent and common clothing — they understand that part of this group identification is that “we” do things in certain ways,” noted Researchers Marco F. H. Schmidt and Michael Tomasello.

About the Contributor
Samie Lee, Staff Reporter
Samie Lee is a Copy Chief and Graphic Designer for ‘The Observatory’ yearbook. She is also a Staff Reporter for 'The Science Survey.' Samie believes that the most appealing aspect of journalistic writing is in its ability to connect people worldwide and spread information and stories to those whom it reaches. These elements are also heavily present in journalistic photography, where a heavier focus on emotion and visual representations can also convey the same meanings. Outside of school, Samie likes to fence as well as play video games. She is still unsure about what she would like to do in the future, but she would prefer to pursue something in the humanities filed, where she believes her ability shines brightest whether it is through writing or the arts.