Parents’ Childhood Trauma Breeds iPad Kids

Aiden Lutjen, staff writer

About once a month, I go back to my hometown for the weekend to visit my parents. Last time I was there, my dad and I were having a quiet night together and ended up on the topic of “iPad kids” after I ranted about an encounter I had recently. This then spiraled into a discussion on generations of trauma, child abuse, good intentions gone bad and how parenting methods will always deeply affect a child and their future.

For those who are miraculously unfamiliar with the term “iPad kid,” it’s a label used for some modern children with unpleasant tendencies. An iPad kid is essentially any child with a serious technology attachment from an extremely young age, like two to five years old. With it, these children tend to be spoiled beyond belief, extremely jealous of other kids for even the smallest things and oftentimes lash out verbally or even physically if they don’t “get their way.” iPad kids are a widespread issue for a reason, and that reason is those children’s parents and how they grew up.

An extremely consistent pattern I’ve noticed from my own and others’ experiences is that the majority of iPad kids have roughly millennial-aged parents, and many millennials (not all, of course, but a lot) have one specific thing in common: the widespread resistance against the parenting methods they were raised with – oftentimes just plain old child abuse in disguise. In recent years, we’ve become more aware of what child abuse entails (verbal and emotional as well as physical abuse), thanks to further understanding of mental health. But it was also thanks to all the millennials out there who decided that enough was enough, and that they weren’t going to subject their own children to the abuse they faced. They were going to be purely and shamelessly supportive of their child, guide them through life with love and advice and create a safe haven of a home, making sure that their kids feel like they truly can connect, open up and talk to their parents.

The intentions were — and still are — good! But sometimes people push too hard, and instead of moving towards a new norm of shamelessly supportive households, we all end up on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, not much better from where we started: children with no rules to follow, and parents too hesitant to enforce them.

Infamous iPad kids are the result of well-intentioned pushback against “traditional” parenting methods and ideologies. They are the result of a generation’s desperate attempt to create a meaningful and deep connection with their children, giving these kids the type of love their parents never got themselves. Unfortunately, there was an unseen middleground that needed to be reached that was only visible once it was too late, after young kids all over the place ended up with holier-than-thou, ungrateful, ignorant attitudes. As annoying and frustrating as it is, it’s also just extremely sad once you take a step back and realize why we’re here in the first place.

With that being said, I’ve noticed one other thing: Gen Z’s hyperawareness of this problem and how, just from the handful of us that are now parents, the consistent effort to find that middle ground parents before us missed is surprisingly common. It makes me wonder if we’ve reached a turning point when it comes to parenting, and that maybe in the near future, more kids will have those deep and trusting relationships with their parents that so many of us never received. It’s just tragic that it’s taken us this long to begin to figure out that you can, in fact, have a healthy and trusting relationship with your child while still having those typical parenting rules to help your kid along the right path.