Kids today…

Growing up in the 1950’s in Fort Frances where the back alley turned into bush across the sprawling former Shevlin Clarke wood storage area, the area was our playground. In the spring we hunted tadpoles in the ponds behind our home. Summer and fall we built forts out of the willow saplings and larger trees. We even built a sod hut and turned some of the larger trees into teepees that were held together by woven branches.

We dreamed a lot and never tired of our wild playground. Our first phones on the street were party lines shared with another home. Later when the Fort Frances Telephone Company was acquired by Bell Canada, we had a private line. I still remember our four-digit phone number. There was only one phone in the house and any calling had to be brief. Even in high school that phone had to be shared with the three Cumming children.

My grandparents were among the first to have a television and my brother Don and I would walk down to my grandparents on Saturday morning to watch Captain Kangaroo, Bugs Bunny, and Sky King. It was all black and white and often snowy. My grandmother only had two channels and on Sunday nights we watched Ed Sullivan and Dinah Shore.

Back then, when we went to bed, I would grab a flashlight to read under the covers and either the batteries would fail, or I would get caught and the flashlight would be confiscated.

In those days, parents worried more about the music their teenagers were listening to than anything else. As channels were added in Fort Frances the concerns grew that parents should restrict the amount of time their children spend in front of the screen. We as parents worried that the television screen was often too much of a child sitter than a vital information system. It is an argument that continues today as parents wrestle with having the television on to watch “Peppa Pig” or a similar children’s show or fighting with their children hoping to get a meal made, or the wash finished.

Back then television influenced the way we looked, the styles and fashions we wore, the makeup that was used. Dress codes were mandated for high school students and teachers. 

Today, parents face new challenges with computers, tablets, and phones.

Today youth with tablets and cell phones can be awake all night long texting through social media with friends and strangers, often from around the world. It is a worrying problem and begs several questions. The first question is what is the appropriate age for a child to own a cell phone? The second, which is drawing a lot of legislator’s thoughts and legislation is “What is the appropriate age for the youth of our country to have access to social media such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and other networks. Even more troubling is should “Social Media” be banned?

Social media has both positive and negative impacts on youth and adults throughout the world. In both Canada and the United States, politicians are grappling with these questions and legislation is being proposed.

On Monday the Trudeau government introduced legislation on making the internet safer for children. The legislation focuses on protecting minors against online sexual abuse, extortion, and exploitation. It is not expected to restrict free speech. Similar legislation was proposed prior to the 2019 election. Will it be supported or opposed?