Humid air, the sound of cicadas, the chill of a popsicle on your tongue, or the moment your warm skin meets water. No matter when or where you grew up, there are certain things that symbolize summer. Although some things will never change, it’s interesting to look at what youthful summers were like in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s compared to modern times. Summer: then and now – what has changed? As it turns out, quite a few things.
Summer: Then and Now
Statistics show that summer jobs are becoming less common for modern teens. From 1948 through 1978, the percentage of American teens with summer jobs fluctuated between 46 percent and 58 percent (source). In 2017, only 35.5 percent of American teenagers had a summer job (source). While the percentage of employed youth has certainly changed, the types of jobs they are doing remain the same. Just like in decades past, you can still find teens babysitting, working in retail shops, selling concessions at movie theaters, serving as lifeguards at pools, stocking grocery store shelves, and mowing lawns.
There’s nothing that strengthens and challenges the sibling bond quite like 10 hours together in the backseat of a car. Summer has always been a common time for Americans to get away, and it turns out road trips were popular back then, and still are now. While American families in past decades usually spent two weeks traveling cross-country in a station wagon, families have switched to shorter five-day trips in their minivans. Nearly 14 million more vacations were taken within the United States during the past year compared to international trips (source).
In the 1940s through the 1970s, it wasn’t uncommon to see neighborhood kids walking around by themselves or in groups. Unfortunately, violent crime rates have increased since the 1950s, so many parents have tightened the borders of where their children can roam free. Since kids still need an outlet to burn off extra energy, many parents choose to enroll their children in organized sports teams like basketball and softball. While traveling for sports may have been unheard of in the 1940s, many parents will travel over state lines with their children’s sports teams so they can compete in national competitions. As you can imagine, enrolling children in summer activities can really add up. According to a 2018 poll, parents of children ages 3-17 planned to spend an average of $471 per child on summer activities such as camp and sports.
When you were a kid, did your Saturday mornings consist of cereal and cartoons? While children certainly still love cereal, they are trading the TV screen for iPad and iPhone screens. One recent study found that 42 percent of American children age 8 and younger now have their own tablet devices (source). Is technology affecting children’s desire to connect with nature? A recent National Trust survey revealed that kids are spending half the amount of time outside each day compared to their parents (source).
Although the summer experience has changed, the season’s carefree spirit and simple joys still remain. How has summer: then and now, changed for you, and what remains the same?
If you enjoyed reading this post and reminiscing about past summers, you may enjoy learning about how travel has changed over the years.
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