Are parents overprotecting their kids?
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Hannah Zelinger just gave her doll collection to her 3-year-old cousin — and now Hannah's bedroom in Long Beach, N.Y., is going from all pink to a black-and-white geometric design that's more mature.
After all, she's 9. And by today's standards, she's leaving childhood behind.
"At 3, 4, 5 and 6, they're playing with toys and dolls and puppet shows and crafts. It stops at 7. After that, they kind of skip into tween," says Hannah's mother, Jennifer Zelinger. "She talks about boys asking them out and who's going to like them."
Zelinger says Hannah wants some independence. But as a mother, Zelinger says, she's so torn about that idea that when Hannah rides her bicycle around the block to see a friend, the moms are on the phone for the entire journey.
"We're actually monitoring how long it takes and checking in, and I think it's sad," Zelinger, 46, says. "I want her to have that freedom, but the stories that I hear — I would never live with myself if anything happened."
Today's kids may never know the no-cares time of innocence, exploration and imagination that their parents recall about childhood.
Many parents rarely let their kids roam the neighborhood, use public transportation or walk to school alone. Play and sports are organized into play dates and teams, and extracurricular activities eat up kids' free time. Hannah's schedule at one point included Hebrew classes, ceramics, gymnastics, Zumba, trapeze and softball.
Even the lazy days of summer aren't so slow anymore, with many kids in structured camp programs, often focused on academics.
The cost, some analysts say, is not just rising concern that kids won't look back fondly on their childhoods. Analysts say there are increasing signs that a lack of independence fuels stress, anxiety and depression among young people. Many child-development specialists and others worry that it's just not as much fun to be a kid anymore.