20 Ways Parenting is Different Than It Was 20 Years Ago

No, parents in the '90s never had to deal with Facebook.

20 Ways Parenting is Different Than It Was 20 Years Ago

Parenting today just isn’t what it used to be. Sure, the universal of rules of rearing a child still apply—you need to stay calm, teach empathy, and lead by example—but factor in new technologies and societal shifts, and you’re looking at an all-new playing field. Parents of the ’90s didn’t have to worry about the iPads, rampant texting and communication via emoji, and online bullying. At the same time, parents in 2018 have the distinct advantage of having just about everything they need, from healthy food to clothes, at their fingertips.

In small ways and big, here are all of the ways being a mom or dad in 2018 is way different than it was in 1998. So read on—and for more on how our world is constantly changing, read up on the 20 Online Dating Terms Older People Don’t Know.

money saved in a jar

You Spend Way More Money As a Parent

Everything about being a parent is more expensive these days. On average, the cost of one year’s worth of formula has risen by 76 percent, and the cost of a jar of baby food has risen by roughly 79 percent. Experts believe that the increase in expenses has much to do with the trend toward healthier, organic foods, as well as the best products and experiences possible.

“We used to eat a lot of canned food and heavy starches,” economics professor Bryan Caplan explained to LearnVest. “If you wanted to eat the same way people ate [long ago], it would cost a lot less.” And speaking of parenting—don’t miss our exhaustive guide to surprising any father in your life with the most amazing and cost-effective Father’s Day gifts imaginable. 

kid on computer doing homework

You Push Your Kids to Do Their Homework… Online

Kids who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s have not-so-fond memories of rummaging through books to source essays and writing everything out by hand. Today’s children, on the other hand, can barely even imagine what such grueling work would be like—most schools either provide or require computers, and homework is primarily done online. In fact, a staggering 98.5 percent of students reported using the internet in school, and 96.5 percent said they needed it at home to complete their homework, according to one study. And speaking of school, you won’t believe these 20 Shocking Confessions from Public School Teachers

kid on tablet, entertained, family

You Have Digital Babysitters That Are Super Convenient But Terrifying

Sure, kids have always loved their screens. But today, tablets can occupy their attention for longer stretches far more effectively than a TV ever could. Yes, this is great if your family is enjoying a long car or airplane trip, but researchers are sounding the alarm that it’s something you may want to curb on the whole. Studies are showing that children spend an average of six and a half hours a day online.

According to an eye-opening report in The Atlantic, so much screen time can make children more distant, more depressed, less happy, and far lonelier. As a parent, you probably can’t banish screens from their entire lives, but parenting in 2018 involves the daily struggle to answer the all-important question: “How much screen time for my child is the right amount?” So far there’s no answer. And when you want them to put the technology away, have them try one of the 20 Genius Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone.

Family at State Summer Fair

You May Choose to Engage in “Free Range Parenting”

Data from the CDC shows that mortality rates are 49 percent lower now for children aged 15 to 19 than they were in the early ’90s. For children ages 5 to 14, the rate has decreased as well by 32 percent. Even reports of missing children are down by 40 percent since 1997. In light of these trends—and thanks to the rise of technology that allows parents to monitor their children’s movements—there is a new school of parenting called “free-range” parenting, where kids are allowed to, well, roam free (within reason, of course). In fact, Utah has became the first state to make it legal for parents to allow children the “walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.” In the past, noted The Atlantic, those were potential red flags for child welfare services.

Louisiana newspapers

You Have to Shield Them from News (or Explain It to Them)

In the ’90s, if your kid wanted to be a news junkie, he or she got his or her hands dirty with a newspaper or watched cable news. (In other words, they could totally avoid “adult” news involving war, harsh political infighting, or anything else if they wanted to.) Today, of course, the proliferation of smartphones and tables has made it so negative news is utterly unavoidable. These days, parents need to be prepped to explain everything from major events to surprise Twitter outbursts.

woman at computer Never Say to a Teacher

You Find That Google Is Your Second Spouse

Google was founded in late 1998, so it’s a good bet no mom or dad hasn’t heard of it yet. Today, all you have to do is peruse any mom’s search history to find all sorts of pressing questions: “Should my baby’s poop be green?” “What is a healthy meal that my kids will actually eat?” “Is my teenager smoking pot?” The Pew Research Center found that 43 percent of moms turn to parenting blogs for advice, and 21 percent use online message boards and social media for help. Honestly, what did moms do before the Internet?

social media changes after 40

You’re in Tons of Facebook Parenting Groups

Back in the ’90s, moms and dads primarily fraternized with old college friends, neighbors, and the occasional new comrade from Mommy & Me class. But today, parenting Facebook groups and apps like Bumble BFF have significantly opened the friendship pool for parents. These new avenues allow parents to exchange tips, coordinate meet-ups, and just vent about the woes of life post-womb.

Family dinner take out

You Order In—a Lot

In April 2015, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that, for the first time, Americans spent more at restaurants and bars than they did at grocery stores. The study authors attributed several factors, like a greater percentage of mothers taking jobs outside the house, to the enormous amount spent eating out. Basically, Millennial parents don’t have time to meal prep or hit the grocery store—and apps like Seamless and Blue Apron make it way too easy to get food delivered to your door.

kid asking parent mom a question

Bullying Is a More Serious Issue

The internet and social media have made cyberbullying a big concern for parents. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that 60 percent of today’s parents list bullying as a top concern, and in a study from Florida Atlantic University, 70 percent of students reported having a rumor spread about them online. If you think your child is being cyberbullied, you should monitor their online activity and bring the harassment up with school officials.

little girl mad upset

More Than Ever Your Children Seek Instant Gratification

Kids these days are so used to getting what they want when they want it that waiting for something can be a foreign concept to them. “Families [overly] centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children,” family therapist David Code told The Guardian. “We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives and our marriages for our kids. Most of us have created child-centered families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy and attention.”

Twenty years ago, watching a movie involved going to the rental store and agreeing upon a film for family movie night. Today, everyone can just retreat to their own room and stream something on Netflix.

save money on clothes

You Post About All of Your Kids’ Accomplishments Online

Today’s Facebook wall is the refrigerator door of twenty years ago. The Internet has made it way too easy for proud parents to boast about every little thing their child does. You’re allowed to be proud—and you should be!—but remember: The rest of the world doesn’t need to know about all of Suzie’s art projects.

A+ grades report card school

You Don’t Have to Worry They’re Hiding Their Report Card Anymore

Gone are the days of waiting anxiously for a teacher to return an essay or math test. Today’s youth can simply log onto an online portal and check their grades instantly. They don’t even have to wait by the mailbox for a college acceptance letter—they just get an email!

“Prestigious colleges are often delivering mass rejection via electronic form letters to several thousand or tens of thousands of students at once,” a journalist at the Washington Post wrote. At least the kids of 1998 had a chance to try to hide their report cards and rejection letters from their parents.

man on smartphone Life Easier

You’ll Have a Group Chat

Even if you’re still trying to figure out how to use emojis and GIFs, you likely have a group chat going with your family—on WhatsApp or otherwise—where you talk about what to eat for dinner, discuss what everyone is doing after school, and send funny memes you found on the internet (even though you don’t totally understand them). Group chats are a great way to keep everyone in the look—and quite frankly, we’re not sure how families stayed in touch before.

older mom parent and daughter out to eat

You’re Getting Older

Women are continuing to take their sweet time when it comes to getting pregnant and starting a family. Back in 2000, first-time moms were 24.9 on average. In 2014, that age rose to 26.3. And today, the age of first-time moms continues to rise.

kids at private school in uniforms on the computer

You’ll Have to Help Write Tons and Tons of College Essays

College admissions in the ’90s were certainly competitive, but the Internet has made them even more so. One study from the University of California at Los Angeles found that more than 27 percent of high school seniors are applying to at least seven schools, compared to half that just a decade ago.

Experts believe that students are applying to more schools as online portals are making it easier for them to just click a button and submit an application. Unfortunately, the influx of applications means more competition, and university acceptance rates are consistently going down nationwide.

mom with daughter and dog Moms Should Never Say

You Could Be Staying at Home

Surprisingly, the number of stay-at-home parents is back on the rise. In 1999, at the peak of the women-at-work movement, only 23 percent of moms stayed at home. Today, that figure is back up at 29 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers believe that the recessions played a big role in the uptick, as the numbers rose primarily between 2000 to 2004 and from 2010 to 2012.

sick child outdated life lessons

You Could Be Taking Your Child to Therapy

The youth of today are struggling with mental health issues like never before. From 1996 to 1998, 9.2 percent of children received outpatient treatment for mental health issues; from 2010 to 2012, that number increased to 13.3 percent, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study authors speculate that this rise in treatment has to do with parents seeking help more frequently for minor issues that parents of the ’90s disregarded.

bike fall

You’ll Baby Your Kids More Than You Were Babied

Of course moms and dads of the ’90s weren’t monsters, but they certainly took more of a laissez-faire approach to parenting. Researchers at the University of Virginia recently interviewed 100 parents and “nearly all respondents remember childhoods of nearly unlimited freedom, when they could ride bicycles and wander through woods, streets, parks, unmonitored by their parents,” head researcher Jeffrey Dill wrote.

But the researchers found that these same parents were unwilling to give their kids the freedom they experienced, as they were worried about everything from kidnapping to crime. “We are depriving [our kids] of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives,” research professor Peter Gray warned in the New York Times.

boy with toad outdated life lessons

You’ll Encourage Them to Go Outside More

Given how many new video game consoles there are, it’s not surprising that children spend half as much time playing outside as their parents did, according to a study from the National Trust. While today’s parents spent over eight hours a week in the great outdoors, their children only see about four hours of sunlight a week. Want to get your kid outside more? Take your family on a road trip to The 33 Best Roadside Attractions in America.

single parent

You Could Be Parenting Single

Society is becoming more open-minded and progressive, and with these changes we are seeing shifts in what the traditional family looks like. In 1980, only 19 percent of family living arrangements involved a single parent, according to the Pew Research Center; today, that number is at 26 percent. Similarly, seven percent of family living arrangements involve cohabiting parents, a situation that didn’t exist twenty years ago. Looking for some more family fun? Read on to discover 15 Summer Family Trips Your Teenage Children Won’t Hate.

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