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Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?

Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?

Students of recent years have often wondered if their teachers are working them too hard. Teachers and parents often ask if the students are even bothering to try. So, I’m here to answer a question everyone has had at one point in their lives. Is it harder growing up in the 21st Century than it was in the past?

As a student, I have an easy bias against this, but as a writer, I’m going to try and stay as unbiased as I possibly can. I’m going over the past fifty years or so and separate each time period into the categories: Student Life and Social Standards.

The 1970s

Let’s start here, in the 70s where my mom and dad were both born into. I’m going to hope some other people’s parents were too because otherwise, this would make me feel younger than I actually am.


Student Life: The use of stereo, radios and tape players is a privilege. Remember — a towel over the door means someone is actually trying to do some serious studying.

Supposedly, Telephone calls on hall phones may be made at any time, but only received before the closing hour in all dormitories. Such calls are limited to a maximum of 10 minutes, to enable other students an opportunity to use the telephone.

Female students should always observe the rule of good etiquette which requires that they receive either a written or telephoned invitation from the hostess-to-be before planning to spend the night or weekend in a home other than their own.


Women’s conduct with men should always be in good taste. Women students, alone or with others, are not to enter classroom buildings, go on the athletic fields or the golf course after supper except to attend college-sponsored practices or meetings. Signing out is required for practices, meetings, etc., scheduled after 9 p.m.

Neat, nice looking slacks are normally attractive dress for most young ladies and are considered appropriate for normal school wear. They are not appropriate, however for church services or Sunday lunch in the cafeteria. Shorts, if moderate length, may be worn during warm weather at any time except before 1 p.m., on Sunday, and to classes. Hair may be rolled, provided a scarf is worn.

Social Standards: Life was simpler for a kid. For one thing, social media wasn’t a thing. If you wanted to socialize, you went outside and joined all the other kids for some pickup football or baseball, or to ride bikes or skateboards. There were always some group of kids outside having fun, and parents never really worried where we were, so long as we were home by dinner.


Ask anyone who lived with through the 1970s and they’ll eagerly tell you what a magical time it was. The activists of the 1960s crusaded for social justice in the 1970s, gaining new freedoms for women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, homosexuals, the elderly, and other ethnic and minority groups.

Almost all aspects of American society in the 1970s were marked by restlessness and a questioning of traditional authority. From public protest movements to personal fashion, people sought a means of self-expression. Breaking traditional fashion rules, women and men experimented with how they looked: They combined separates rather than wearing suits, drew influences from other cultures and time periods, wore pants or dresses, threw away ties and jackets, and walked around in athletic wear. Throughout the decade, people dressed however they wanted, and what they wanted most were comfort and a unique style.

Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?The 1980s

Growing up in the seventies seems a bit easy, so let’s try the 1980s. Try to imagine the days before the Internet, affordable (and stylish!) clothing options from Target and your beloved iPhone.


School Life: Kids walked both to and from school. ALONE. And they wore our house key around our neck. They would get home and ate Twinkies and watched TV and talked on their corded phone and never did homework. No one thought this was a bad idea.

Homework was one page. Two on a heavy day. If you had math and writing on the same day, it was perfectly acceptable to cry about it.

No one cared if you had any self-esteem. Get it somewhere else. They didn’t do that at school.


Social Standards:  Anyone over 40 would probably argue that manners and mores have gotten worse over the past three decades. Just take a look at our presidential election. But consider this: Donald Trump first rose to fame in the 1980s, when he was embraced by the nation’s tastemakers.

A good education, a good job, and a loving family no longer defined success for many Americans. They had to have an M.B.A. degree, a high-paying job, an elegant home or apartment, a membership to an upscale health club, and the necessary clothes to give at least the appearance they had succeeded.

Indeed, for these Americans, called “yuppies,” dressing for success became the rule to live by. They wanted more, and they were in a hurry to get it. Popular phrases that arose in the decade—”A.S.A.P.” (as soon as possible), “what’s the bottom line?” and “cut to the chase”—communicated their sense of urgency as they sought money and a way of life that flaunted it.


Beyond the shopping malls and mail-order catalogs, serious social issues made news, and some people were concerned. While many Americans spent freely, others were left with nothing as the Reagan administration stopped providing financial support for numerous social programs.

As increasing numbers of Americans lost their homes, they found society had neither the means nor the will to help them in their time of crisis. Many of them were left to wander the streets of American cities, swelling the ranks of the homeless. Reports of child abuse also soared during the decade, overwhelming social service agencies. Officials finally declared the problem of child abuse “a national emergency.” As with homelessness, American society’s attempts to address child abuse were often inadequate.

Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?


The 1990s

In the mid-90s, a time when the Backstreet Boys sang about wanting things their way and Britney Spears challenged us to hit her one more time. It bet it would’ve been nicer growing up in the 1990s.

School Life: If you forgot your homework, you were screwed. There were no online textbooks and if the night janitor didn’t hear you banging on the gym door to let you in, you had to wait until the morning to retrieve it from your locker.

You could play sports and have a social life. Sports and activities weren’t all or nothing commitments and you had plenty of time to hang out at the local diner on a Friday night.


Our school day wasn’t an all-inclusive, 24/7 experience. When you went home from school, so did your teacher. You did homework at night with The Cure playing in the background and you turned it in the next day at school. We didn’t have to worry about meeting a deadline at midnight because a computer program made it so you could never turn off your day.

Social Standards: Everyone drove crappy cars and no one ever had any money. You were just grateful that you could pay someone with a radio and four bald tires $5 to take you to the football game.

Your choices of prom gowns were limited to what you could find at the local mall or boutique in town. Unless your mom took you on a special trip to the fancy mall an hour away, you chose the teal taffeta dress that was on clearance at Macy’s and the faux diamond jewelry from Claire’s Boutique like everyone else.


Everyone wore Keds with slouch socks and carried JanSport backpacks filled with actual textbooks. No one had Chrome books and iPhones and expensive noise reduction headphones with Bluetooth. We had Walkmen that were the size of toasters and CD players that made us look like we were carrying salad plates on our waists.

A good Friday night was diner food and friends. A great Friday night was sipping soda in the car while you waited for the one-hour photo mat to develop the pictures you’d taken from an instant camera. And realizing that you caught a moment where you and your friends were all looking at the camera at the same time. Smiles wide, foreheads wrinkle-free and jacked to Jesus’ hair blowing in the wind.

I would have honestly preferred growing up here instead of the 2000s.


Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?

The 2000s

For some, the year 2000 feels like yesterday, but that hasn’t stopped ’90s children from getting all nostalgic about growing up in the turn of the millennium. The strangest part about growing up in the early 2000s is that I was growing up during a time before people were dependant on computers as well as after.

I was able to play outside when I was growing up because nobody had anything better to do inside, but as I got older I was able to experience the significant changes due to the advancements in technology. It was almost an instant change when all my two friends got their own phones that had no buttons and stopped talking to me as much.


School Life: School was always almost too much to handle, especially being the shy introverted girl I am. American children and teens spend around 7.5 hours a week more at school than kids did 20 years ago.

See Also

That’s only one way in which schools and education have changed over the years. Fashions come and go, but historical events and political changes impact education in many ways. From speed-reading to SMART boards, here’s what going to school looked like the decade you were born.


The early 2000s were defined by the attacks of September 11. Soon after the attacks, the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in early 2002, ushering in a new age of standardized testing.

The Washington Post reported that the act failed to raise scores on standardized exams and led to extensive teaching for the test, cheating scandals, and pushing low-scorers out of school, all related to the fixation on testing. 

In the late 2000s, the Common Core was introduced under the Obama administration. The Common Core is a set of guidelines for what students should be studying and at each grade level. The guidelines also state that tests should be taken, analyzed, and compared to that of other schools. This education initiative is considered an extension of the No Child Left Behind Act.


Social Standards: The growth of the Internet contributed to globalization during the decade, which allowed faster communication among people around the world; Social networking sites arose as a new way for people to stay in touch no matter where they are, as long as they have an internet connection.

The first social networking sites were Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006, respectively. Myspace was the most popular social networking website until June 2009 when Facebook overtook Myspace in the number of American users. The E-mail continued to be popular throughout the decade and began to replace “snail mail” as the primary way of sending letters and other messages to people in faraway locations, though it has been available since 1971.

Automotive navigation systems become widely popular making it possible to direct vehicles to any destination in real-time as well as to detect traffic and suggest alternate routes with the use of GPS navigation devices. Wireless internet became prominent by the end of the decade, as well as internet access in devices besides computers, such as mobile phones and gaming consoles.


Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?

The 2010s

And now we reach the 2010s. My siblings continue growing up and I find it weird that they’re just beginning to enter schools whilst I’m about to end it.

School Life: Modern-day education is growing up faster than you can tweet, text, or type. Charter schools have recently been in the spotlight, and with good reason. An estimated 3.1 million students are currently enrolled in these schools across the country. These independently run public schools have strict performance goals that need to be met.


Another huge change this decade happened after the events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shoot in 2012. The United States was forced to accept that school shootings were becoming more common — The Washington Times reported that the frequency between killings has increased to 74 days between incidents this decade, compared with 282 days between killings in the ’70s.

Transgender bathrooms were also thrust into the news. In 2016, President Obama issued guidelines sent to all school districts to ensure no student, including transgender students, was discriminated against. This was to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Schools that did not abide would face a loss of federal funding and lawsuits. President Trump withdrew federal protections for transgender students after going into office, according to CNN.

Social Standards: Adolescents that are growing up in this time would do anything to avoid standing out. Emotional immaturity equals a lack of confidence.


Getting a graduate degree or Ph.D. is a no-brainer for people who are absolutely clear that it’s a requirement for their profession of choice, for example, doctors, lawyers, and professors. However, if you’re considering graduate school for another career path, it’s worth questioning why you are making this decision.

Too often people continue their education because they don’t know what else to do. Make sure it’s the right decision, and explore other ways to educate yourself and further your level of expertise. To really rise to the top, it’s not about getting the degree–it’s about doing what is aligned with your top skills and passions.

Is It Harder to Grow Up in the 21st Century Than It Was in the Past?


With all that in mind, my answer would have to be: Yes. Growing up in the 21st Century is harder than in the past. Nowadays, students struggle with way too many standards and too much homework.

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