Sorry, but You Picked the Wrong Century to Raise Kids

It’s hard to imagine that parenthood has ever been easy. Nonetheless, today’s parents feel they face a uniquely daunting task. Conducted among parents of kids age 5-17, a study by Public Agenda finds 76 percent saying it’s “a lot harder” to raise a kid today than when they were growing up. How come? Many adults feel modern culture is a malign influence. One question in the survey asked parents to pick “the biggest challenge you face in raising your child.” While 23 percent picked financial pressures and 27 percent said it’s “trying to find enough time to be together as a family,” a plurality (47 percent) cited “trying to protect your child from negative societal influences.” As you’d expect, television is conspicuous among these. Sixty-five percent said the shows that air on major networks between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. are often inappropriate for children. Ninety percent agreed that “When it comes to bad language and adult themes, it seems like TV programs are getting worse every year.” More broadly, 39 percent of parents worry “a lot” and 34 percent worry “some” that their kids are exposed to “negative messages in the media”; 47 percent feel that “Wherever my child turns, he/she sees crude or sexual messages in the media.” Some culprits live closer to home, though: 47 percent of respondents worry a lot and 29 percent worry some about “the negative influence of other kids on your child.” That’s higher than the number worried about low-quality public schools (41 percent a lot, 25 percent some). How do parents feel they’re faring in the struggle to raise their kids right? Reviews are mixed. Among the 91 percent who believe it’s “absolutely essential” that they teach their kids “to be honest and truthful,” 55 percent think they’ve succeeded in doing so. Of the 84 percent who feel it’s essential to teach their kids “to be courteous and polite,” 62 percent believe they’ve succeeded. With kids beset by sales pitches, 70 percent of respondents think it’s essential their youngsters learn “to save money and spend it carefully,” but just 28 percent of these parents feel they’ve gotten the message across.