“My childhood was so awesome. Kids today don’t even know!”

Isn’t a flex.

It’s a lament.

More people should understand that.

Cereal boxes had toys inside.

Yes, it was a crass marketing for a sugar cereal made of chintzy plastic

Today you’re just expected to eat Capn Crunch because that’s what you do as a child, that’s what breakfast looks like. Which is… fine, I guess. Sugar still tastes good. That’s still a pleasure you’re otherwise asked to disavow by the protein shake nutribottles advertised on podcasts.

But it also means the idle minor joy of getting a random toy present, as a reward for nothing, just because you exist, is stripped. That random spark of joy is gone, replaced with nothing.

Where did the public pool go? the neighborhood park? the atrium food court public place to gather?

Same thing. All of them were just replaced with nothing.

Kids today have many good things. But it shouldn’t be a trade off. They should get to have instant messages with friends and go skating at the park. They should get to play amazing modern video games at home and go trick or treating for halloween. They should be able to have stickers and markers and macaroni art as well as youtube and streaming libraries and fortnite dances.

Fun should be allowed at every level.

Also. Kids now are just used to people constantly trying to sell them stuff.

When I was a kid, we had advertising on TV, radio, magazines, and billboards. It was easy to recognize and you could work around it. There were certain types of TV, like PBS or cable, that did not have commercials.

Now, kids are inundated with advertising constantly. YouTube and social media have replaced TV and radio for a lot of families, where in addition to ads every 1-3 minutes, many YT stars have sponsored bits in their videos. Social media constantly tries to sell you things. They have found a way to put advertising into the pumps at gas stations. There are so many things, like access to TV shows and Disney movies, that are locked behind a paywall. They can’t even read a newspaper if they wanted to.

I did a school visit a while back to a group of about 100 fourth graders to tell them about the library’s upcoming Summer Reading Program. They were totally unimpressed by me telling them cheerfully that if they met their reading goals, we would give them books for free. I thought they were just tired because it was close to the end of the day, and then one kid raised his hand to resignedly ask the question they were all thinking:

Kid: How much does this cost?
Me: Nothing. It’s a free library program.
Kid: Uh huh, like you are going to give us books for free. How much does it really cost?
Me, confused: … nothing. You don’t have to give us any money at all. You just have to do the reading and fill out your reading log, and you will have earned the books to take home and keep forever.
Kid, in disbelief: Oh come on. If you don’t charge us, how are you gonna make money?
Me, taken aback: We don’t make money, we’re a library.
Kid, exasperated: What do you mean you don’t make money?
Me: We’re a public service, like the fire department or schools. You don’t have to pay to use those either.
There is a ripple in the crowd as 100 disbelieving 9 year olds take this in.
Other kid: How do you afford to do anything if you don’t make money? Like where do you get the money to do stuff if we don’t have to pay you?
Me: Through things like government grants and taxes.
Third kid: So let me get this straight. That means that if some people don’t pay their taxes –
Teacher: Friend, this is a great conversation for Social Studies and not during library time! Ms. Intrepidheroine, would you like to show us the LEGOs you brought?

And that’s the story of how I realized that children absolutely expect you to try to sell them something if you come in to do a “special talk” even if it’s for a library.

Which is tragic.