It's only fair to share…

Movies apart from, usually, being entertaining, can also get us thinking. Recently I saw the Australian move “Swinging Safari”, a comedy set in the 1970’s. For those who lived through the time it is a real trip down memory lane with so many iconic references to things like “The Charger”, “K -Tel” and door to door encyclopaedia sales. Much of this might be lost on those who are not Australian or even those who are too young to remember the era.

However, what was striking is how much life has changed in 40 years! And I don’t just mean the hair and fashion trends. People used a rotary phone not a mobile device. Smoking was common.

It is questionable if life has changed as much in human history as in the last 40 years. Things we take for granted today did not exist 20 years ago (Google will be 20 in September and the i-phone just turned 10). For most of us, being without our devices for even a day can be stressful.

There is much hand wringing about the behaviour of young people today.

Despite the bleating from public health about drug and alcohol use amongst teens, figures were in decline as was underage sex. Figures reported in The Economist show that the age at which Australian teens first try alcohol has risen from 14.4 to 16.1 since 1998. Fighting, and drug use has also declined in many countries. The number of teenagers who were abstinent and had not tried any substance was increasing. To quote The Economist “In short, young people are less hedonistic and break fewer rules than in the past.

Another striking difference between now and the 70’s was that children played outside rather than on a play station. And that they were left to their own devices. Helicopter parenting had not yet arrived either.

I am not one for pining for a mystical “good old days” when everything was better. We cannot wind back the clock and not everything was better. However, the past (even recent past) also can provide lessons.

Resilience comes from getting through adversity. Today’s approach to children which seeks to protect them from every conceivable upsetting event is wrong. Especially when you consider that these events include losing at sport. Children playing football can tell if one team kicks more goals. Essentially lying to children by saying nobody won does them no good. The children will get over a “loss “in half an hour or less. And it teaches them that losing a game is not a life and death issue and also that losing is part of life. One day they will lose out on a job opportunity to someone else. One day an investment will go down rather than up in value. One day a romantic relationship will break up and end. How are they going to survive these greater knockbacks in life if we teach them that the slightest “negative” is life threatening.

I was a useless footballer. It taught me that a career in this would not be worthwhile. Losing games taught me that other people can be better at some things than you but that is fine. You can have setbacks, learn and move on.

Pendulums swing. The desire to protect children from harm is a good thing. The statistics on drug use, violence and underage sex (especially unprotected) is a positive. Shielding them from learning about life through experiencing it is not.

We need to restore some balance.