Kids Today

Back in 1956, parents and the public at large were up in arms over the “vulgarity” and “animalism” of Elvis Presley’s dance moves. Many were convinced that those swiveling hips were a sure sign of the diminishing moral values of teens of the day. There was such an outcry that The Ed Sullivan Show initially cancelled an appearance with the King. Eventually ol’ Ed relented and invited Elvis on his show to perform “Don’t Be Cruel,” but there was a catch … the camera only filmed Elvis from the waist up, so the TV audience couldn’t see those sexy dance moves – let alone his blue suede shoes.

Nowadays, these fears seem amusingly prudish. Can you imagine how these folks would have reacted to the bumping and grinding of Prince or Madonna or even Hannah Montana herself, Miley Cyrus?

And so it’s easy in modern times to think that when we are worried about some changing trend in our culture that we’re probably overreacting. I check myself all the time when I see some video that I think is crazy suggestive: “Oh, you’re being just like those angry ’50s parents, Julia. You’re just out of touch is all.”

I’ve found myself doing that a lot more lately when I see kids out and about making duck faces at their phones as they snap selfie after selfie. It looks so narcissistic and suggestive from the outside. Will this next generation, so fixated on selfies, become more, well, selfish? Will they grow up to focus more on appearance and less on substance of character and kindness?

Contributing writer Rebecca Kavanagh tackles these questions in our May cover story. There are no easy answers, but there are some great insights for parents perplexed by the trend – and concerned. Selfies aren’t going anywhere, but there are some things you can do to ensure that your kids realize that life is bigger than what fits inside the camera frame. And that there is good and bad in the world that selfies – and social media in general – leave out. I am heartened by projects like the one our junior graphic designer Marina Csomor started that demonstrates the gulf between digital life and what you’re truly living. Cropped is a platform for 20-somethings to share the things that get left out of those “living-the-good-life” social media posts. It is the anti-selfie. And it gives me hope. Maybe selfies aren’t so bad if they are combined with some self-reflection.

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