toddler in sprinkler proving that kids these days are just as bad (or good) as previous generations
Parenthood You Got This

Are Kids These Days Really Worse Than Previous Generations?

By Emily Ramirez

“Kids these days…”

Do you ever hear that one? Regardless of whether these words slip from the lips of a disapproving family member or a disgruntled stranger, they can really pack a punch. But is there anything to them?

Recently researchers (and what do you want to bet they were fed up parents?) decided to do a deep dive into the data to see if there was anything behind this antiquated statement.

As with any scientific study, the results aren’t as black and white as we might like, but it did shed light on some of the reasons why people say it – and long story short, it has more to do with them than your kid.

This line is as old as time

First things first, harassing young parents by proclaiming “back in my day” or “kids these days” as a way to disparage younger generations isn’t new. It’s been happening for millennia.

That’s right. Your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (or however many ‘greats’ it takes to get to 624 BC) crochety uncle Platonius thought his generation was superior to the one following, just like his crochety uncle thought about kids back in his day.

This means you and your babe aren’t the first in your bloodline to be bombarded with this bullshit line, nor will you be the last.

Researchers didn’t actually measure if kids these days are in decline, but rather why people might think that there is a decline.

Doing research like this is complicated. In this case, it isn’t really measuring anything tangible and relies entirely on personal opinion and memory – which as it turns out, in most people is kind of terrible. With that said, unsurprisingly, researchers did find that in general, participants in their study did subscribe to this line of thinking.

Believing in the “kids these days” mindset says more about the person saying it than the kid they’re judging.

Researchers chose three factors and asked if people thought kids these days were doing worse off than previous generations. Specifically, they looked at reading, respect, and intelligence.

In a nutshell, the better you are at something, the more you think kids stink at it. So, if you’re an avid reader now you might feel like kids these days read less. The same goes for intelligence and authority – if you’re an authoritative person who grew up in a very authoritative household, you are more inclined to feel like this generation is less respectful.

Throw in a sprinkle of mis-remembering a few key details, and you have the perfect recipe for the “back in my day” mentality.

Or, to quote the actual researchers, “Two mechanisms contribute to humanity’s perennial tendency to denigrate kids: a person-specific tendency to notice the limitations of others where one excels and a memory bias projecting one’s current qualities onto the youth of the past.” Whew! That’s a mouthful.

So what does this all mean?

Kids these days are fine. If we were really on a constant decline since 624BC we’d all be snorting soup up our noses and trying to order pizza from a shoe. If someone drops this gem of a line in your lap, just smile knowingly that whoever said it has both a terrible memory and an inflated ego.

Has anyone pulled the “kids these days” line on you?

Feel free to have a vent session in the comments below!

Our next recos: How to Gracefully Deal with Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Leave a Comment