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How Did The 80's Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

My friend is a teacher and she was lamenting to me how her school had recently completely shut down recess for the entire school. One of the kids from a different class had been cut by a fence that surrounded the school yard and instead of just do what one would logically think, which is let the schools insurance pay the kids medical bill and then simply repair the fence and resume recess again once it was fixed, some parents had gone into complete hysterics and complained about the safety of the playground (this was a first time incident), and the school overreacted and shut down recess for everyone for the rest of the school year.

I mean...I don't want to go so far as to say we should fully go back to that "but did you die," mentality which ruled the 80s, but for Christ's sake, kids these days can't do anything unless they are wrapped up in cotton balls. Growing up in the 80s, I honestly feel like we were the last true generation allowed to just be kids, to be wild, to have any kind of real freedom, and to actually have to "survive" our childhoods. This was an era before you Googled the neighborhood to find out how many pervs there were, when you could still potentially trust any of your neighbors to watch out for your kids, and where getting hurt was just a part of growing up that most of us have the scars to prove.

So how exactly did the 80's not kill us?

1. Seatbelts were barely a thing

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

In the 80s, I was in the front seat of the car with no seatbelt on. So called "Mom Arm" was a real thing whereby if your mom (or dad) had to break hard, they would thrust their arm across your chest to keep you from slamming into the dashboard or flying out the front window. Laws were just beginning to very slowly catch up and enforce putting kids in the back seat or buckled up or in a carseat, but in a lot of states, lawmakers were actually fighting against making seatbelts compulsory. It would not be a strange sight to see kids playing around unbuckled in back or front seats of a car or climbing over the seats, or held on their parents laps.

2. We basically never wore helmets or pads

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

Riding a bike or skating meant, you just strapped roller skates to your feet or rode out into the sunset. No adult demanded you wear a helmet. If you fell and hurt something, your parents told you "it was probably your own fault for doing something dumb," and they were probably right about that.

3. We were barely supervised

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

In your neighborhood, as soon as you could ride a bike or had an older sibling to go with if you were younger, you could go just about anywhere unsupervised. No one inquired where your parents were unless it was after dark, because that was the only time you'd ever get in trouble. You were always in one of a few places though: the park, the store, your friends house, the mall, the arcade, or in some dangerous abandoned house/quarry/cave/top of hill that everyone knew about.

4. Being Left in the Car Unsupervised Was Normal

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

Nowadays, people will break a window if they see a kid inside a car unsupervised, but in the 80s, hot car or not, your parents would leave you in the car while they ran a quick errand, or literally grocery shopped for the week, and tell you not to leave. And you sat there, windows rolled down fighting with your siblings till they got back and no adult called anyone to rescue you.

5. Home Alone was real

The first time I was left home alone, I think I was 5 and my brother was 7. We were told, don't turn on the stove, and don't open the door, and that was it. We were totally unsupervised for 1 or 3 hours a few times a year. This was normal. So normal, this snazzy instructional video popped up in 1986 to help KIDS learn how to survive when they were home alone.

6. You definitely hitched a ride in the back of someone's truck

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

You and your 4 cousins would have popped in the back of your uncles truck and gone to the local pool. No seatbelts, riding with the bed open or sitting on the sides of the truck rim. Someone you knew (or didn't) would often offer you a ride too, and you'd take it, if you needed to go somewhere and no one thought anything of it.

7. Playgrounds were barely safe

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

Concrete was a real thing on playgrounds in the 80s. None of that soft earth stuff or rubber matting. When you fell off, you broke something, or got major road rash for skidding across the pavement. All the slides were high and made of literal metal (so the sun would burn the crap out of you on a hot day). Everything that spun meant you were going to get nauseous and go flying off of it with no real ways to stop/control the speed once you and/or your friends got going, anything with bars meant you were getting your head, arm, or a leg stuck in it at one point, and the spacing and height of most of the equipment meant you would slip and fall to the ground at some point.

8. Life existed before cell phones were "a thing"

How Did The 80s Not Kill (Most Of) Us?

If you were lost, or in danger, or you got hurt, or your parents needed to check on you, the only way to get out of that situation was running to a payphone, running to someone's house, or surviving with your friends. Teens and kids today cannot fathom a world before cell phones existed in every single persons back pocket, but we lived it and we're somehow still here.

How Did The 80's Not Kill (Most Of) Us?
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  • MrOracle
    Hell yes. It was "survival of the fittest" and if you weren't smart, you got hurt, which taught most of us to be smart in the future. Monkey bars and swing sets on asphalt or concrete were the norm.
    All-metal climbing dome with exposed bolts on the inside
    All-metal climbing dome with exposed bolts on the inside
    Metal Merry-Go-Round - notice the gravel
    Metal Merry-Go-Round - notice the gravel
    At my school, these bars had asphalt underneath
    At my school, these bars had asphalt underneath
    Universal school swingset - ours had a rubber pad over asphalt.
    Universal school swingset - ours had a rubber pad over asphalt.
    Growing up this way taught us about the real world: it wasn't going to be safe and padded, so you had to be careful and pay attention, because your actions had consequences. If you swung real high and jumped off, you could break an arm or leg - taking that risk was just part of the equation. If you did a cherry drop off the high bar and messed up, you were gonna land wrong on concrete or asphalt, so you made sure you did it right, and if you didn't, you didn't blame anyone but yourself.

    Today, no one ever wants to take responsibility for anything themselves, and they mostly don't, and this teaches some very bad habits that cause adults who should know better to make very stupid decisions later in life, because they feel divorced from the consequences. Most of us 70s and 80s kids weren't insulated from consequences, and we're better off as a result.
    LikeDisagree 7 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • humanearth

      I agree with you. Today life is too soft.

      The potty backs up, their life is over.

      I seen this happen to my friends kid. Their kid is 29 years old and freaks out when the toilet over flows. And just stands there watching it and freaking out.

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • NetSapien
    Life felt more 'fun' then didn't it?

    I don't think the question is how we survived back then, really. Because to be honest, our generation seemed wiser for our age comparably to the same age today. The question should be if we're gonna survive 2020's.

    Hell, I fell out of the bed of a pickup truck when I was 13 riding in the back. My dad stopped and asked "You dead? Anything broke? You bleeding to death? Alright, get back on and learn to hold on better."

    Small kids would typically fall under 2 categories.. "well behaved" and "Little shits". Today everyone's got 'traumas'.

    Everyone understood "don't believe anything they say on TV".

    The part which I find crazy, society seems more racist, intolerant, and more voluntarily segregated today. And we had some serious racism to grow out of still back then. "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons" were excellent shows, and we all laughed and thought it was funny, even if we were the ones 'insulted'. We could handle this.

    I feel our experiences allowed us to adapt thicker skin and be 'tougher' and more able to face challenges than today's young folks. Probably also why we sometimes don't understand these younger kids.

    I think other comments are correct too, today people just seem 'dumber' and/or more 'delicate' than we were.
    Like 2 People
    • Anonymous

      We not so long ago experienced a hurricane that knocked out the power to the city in some cases for a month+, and one of the things that happened were kids were "FORCED" to go outside again and do things that didn't involve electricity like ride bikes, and play with the neighborhood kids, and use their imaginations. No video games or phones for them. It was like this magical time that reminded a lot of people of what their childhoods were, but the second the power came back on, the kids were gone again. Bikes put back up, back to only talking to the neighbors kids through headsets. I think, I had my whole childhood playing outside and making friends. These days one has to pre-schedule a play date and confirm allergy lists and background check the parents driving the kids to the park. It just isn't the same. I also agree about a tougher skin. A teacher can't even discipline a student without someone recording it and putting it on youtube and getting fired...but you never see what the kids did to get him/her to that point. As a kid you didn't talk back to teachers or your parents knew about it and would defend the teacher and not you, their little precious angels.

  • lightbulb27

    we are the survivors. something got corrupted in society that changed our thinking to self rather than the good of the country. How that came in, I wish I knew.

    school became about avoiding expensive lawsuits, more adminstrators were added, social ideas about how to train kids changed... for the worse... as if kids aren't allowed to suffer or have consequences, responsibility went out the door. I think our corrupt money system is part of the equation.

    Wonder if @OlderAndWiser would have context as to what legal system changes and underlying social thinking warped the system. Brings back memories of the mcdonalds hot coffee lawsuit that was worth millions to someone. the thieves that got shot and made millions, or the one that cut himself on glass when breaking in and was awarded big money. Something changed...

    Maybe it was vietnam and korea... loss of so many fathers, immigration of other cultures rising up in the system? Maybe McCarthy was right? I'm fascinated.

    If a kid gets caught up in the barbed wire protecting them from the occasional nut case, then send them to the nurse and heal them up. $2 in bandaids solves it. It's not a $1million dollar wound. They scars are badges of honor.
    Disagree 1 Person
    • Anonymous

      Schools are awful these days. One of my first jobs was working at an afterschool program via the YMCA. The list of things we weren't allowed to do could have filled a room. No Christmas parties (b/c what about the kid that doesn't celebrate), no bringing snacks/food prizes for the kids (someone could get sick and/or die), you can't so much as hug a kid (I had a group of 4-5 year olds who would hug me or seek comfort when they were crying but I LITERALLY had to kick them off of me or risk being fired), we couldn't kick the disruptive kids out of the programming (b/c it was unfair and feelings would be hurt)...and on and on. I loved that job, but if another parent wined about their kid not being included, or an admin told me, hey don't tell the kids about Halloween b/c we can't have a party...I was going to scream!

  • horatiohornblower
    Heck ya. I remember our school had really tall swings. Everyone's favorite past time was swinging as high as you could. Then go flying off. Seeing who could get the most distance or height. The yard duties could care less.

    The park had a zip line about ten feet off the ground. Where kids had to jump to grab whatever you call the zipper thing to zip across. Often missing and falling in the sand. Another park had one of those rock climbing walls over concrete with no harnesses. Who can forget the Hamburgler house at McDonalds. That was a friggin' furnace during the summer and seemingly impossible to get out of. Because of how small the entrance was.

    There was also this abandoned lot we called the cracks. It was just really hilly and had some really steep tracks worn in the dirt with giant cracks in the middle. Of course you'd go down on your bike as fast as you could and hope you don't hit the crack. The worst we called Godzilla. Because of how dangerous it was. This was all done without helmets.

    By the time I was in second grade. Everyone walked home. Didn't matter if it was a half hour walk. The sidewalks would be packed with kids. Only the losers got picked up by their moms. If it was pouring rain. Tough, hopefully you remembered your umbrella. Of course some jag off in a car would purposefully rip through a deep puddle and hit you with a tidal wave.

    Then our town also had a wash system. We'd just go running or riding through miles of the wash system. With garbage strewn about which washed from the streets during storms.

    There was also an abandoned school which was fun to play in. Schools in general weren't locked up at all. Just a chain link fence with open gates all over the place.
  • Dragonpurple
    I did everything you listed, riding in the back of a truck down the freeway or even in a camper on a truck. Never wore helmets on my bike. Even would climb in the back window of the car on long road trips to sleep.

    People were smarter back then, if someone cut off a truck carrying people in the back and someone got killed, whoever cut them off was charged with the automobile manslaughter not the driver of the vehicle. It made drivers not want to cut people off and be asshole drivers. These days people think, just get in front and I'm good even if I cause an accident and laws have changed to saw the driver is now responsible.

    In my state there is no state law making it illegal to ride in the back of a truck to this day, some local area's have laws on it but no state law. People still ride in the back of trucks for farm work and or parades, going through Christmas light shows, etc.

    Cell phones were not needed and still are not needed. Growing up with them is a crutch. People from my generation are very independent, we had to be.

    There is a lot of good things about not having them, growing up with cell phones makes kids make child porn by sexting each other. A down side to everyone having phones is child porn production has gone sky high. Before phone and digital camera's it happened like any other crime but it involved Camcorders and developing your own film and sharing was far more difficult. A criminal child porn person might only reach a few hundred people over a few decades, but these days a single teen girl sending a video to her boyfriend can get millions of views online in a week.

    The question almost becomes is the new technology better than not having it or worse.

    Also if that had been my school, the parents would not have even sued the school or insurance or nothing they would of just told their kids to be careful of the fence that can hurt you.

    We were also taught to look both ways before crossing the street and it doesn't matter who has the right away. If a car isn't stopping don't go. These days kids just walk out, not looking and parents are all sue happy like they wanted their kid to get hit.
  • humanearth
    I was born in the 1960s and that was my childhood that you just talked about.

    My kids and now my grandkids have free run on the farm. There is only one rule.

    Stay away from the swamp in the winter. It never freezes over, you can fall in and no one could tell where you went in at.

    They go for walks in the woods that is full of wild life. From black bears to the Timber Rattlesnake.

    Another thing, where we live, cellphones dont work here. We have the house phone and the CB & Ham Radios for wireless commucations.

    Even at the age of 3 they have chores on the farm. Like help make firewood. We tell them if you want heat in your room you better help make it.

    Another chore they have is. When it time to harvest animals for food. They must take part in all parts of the butchering process. They all know where their food comes from.

    There are other chores like help with barn chores, mending their own clothes, and so on.

    Thats how kids learn to survive as adults. But letting them live their childhood and teach them along the way

    I know many of you are going to jump all over me for what I just said. My reply is F. Y. and shut up
  • FTnWo
    As my buddy once told me..."dude, nobody born after the 80's worth a shit" haha for real though he said that because where he works they go through a ton of new people but none of the younger folks will really work to hard.
    I know growing up in the 80s in Sacramento California sure was great and an adventure unlike many others.
    So as an 80s kid I learned from trial and error, nobody said "look it up on google" or "let's see if anybody else has done this" before going to YouTube and we didn't get on Facebook because we went to our friends house if we wanted to keep up with them, we didn't cry when we didn't get what we wanted because our parents "would give us something to cry about" or that's what my mom would say if we even attempted to complain or whine about something, cellphones were for the rich and came in a suitcase looking case, and when food stamps came in a book and we could buy a 5cent piece of gum and get $19.95 back in cash then it was arcade time lol and I don't know how wedidntdie
    Disagree 1 Person
  • Floppy2112
    Oh yeah, kids today are overprotected and I think it's to their own detriment. I have never worn a helmet to ride a bike in my life. When I would ride with my parents, I would usually lay on the floor and have my feet up on the seat. When I was a baby, my mother was my car seat.
    Not everything was great about that stuff, there were dangers and accidents, but we definitely have overcorrected. No we have kids practically old enough to drive still sitting in car seats (which I think is a racket). Why the hell would a kid over 5 need a booster seat? I think the companies who make this shit lobby the government for these ridiculous laws so parents have to spend tons of money on a piece of plastic they don't need.
    We need to go back to somewhere between then and now. Remove overly draconian laws and let people live their lives as they see fit. Yeah, sometimes people get hurt, yeah sometimes people die. That's life, somehow we haven't managed to stop people from getting hurt and dying.
    As a matter of fact, the number one cause of death, by far, is life.
    Disagree 1 Person
  • DamnSam
    My mother told me a lot of that time back then... but it wasn't that better...11 kids from her school died in car accidents which probably would have been half with seat belts... not to mention the high mortality rates of lung infections, salmonella, flu etc

    That no helmet and no pads did cost me a knee cap (literally the knee cap out of my knee), a few teeth where now gaps are, elbow knee and hip joints which would work way better if I wouldn't have been that stupid... or maybe supervised

    Which leaded me to the believe, people do not always need to make the same mistakes... it would be better for mankind if we stop young people in their, let's say not so smart things...

    Remembers me actual on a guy named frank... when I was a teen he explained to me how to build a bomb, but encouraged me never to try it by taking off his pants and showing me that he misses a leg since he did build a bomb in the garage when he was 14... he had a pic in his pocket how the garage looked after the explosion he made...
    • hahahmm

      " but it wasn't that better." -- Oh, but it was. You gotta remember something. Your mom is telling you from her female point of view. It wasn't women who built civilizations. Yes, they contributed but it wasn't your mom's fear that gave us all of the great things our ancestors handed down to us. It took bravery, hard work and focused goals. Not hiding from accidents.

    • DamnSam

      I say that only once... stfu about "woman didn't build up the country"... after ww2 most male jobs where worked by woman bc their man didn't come back from war

      Stand up to your mother and tell her what you told me, I bet my hand that she will try to smack that shit out of your head...

    • hahahmm

      @DamnSam Again.. it was not fear of accidents that built civilization. And you wouldn't have been able to find enough women in WWII to fight the war on the front line even if you looked for them. Yes, some did. It's cool that you believe the feel-good theory that men and women are the same tho.

  • Hermes-Paris
    Yup. Remember playing football with no equipment except for a ball. And being an outfielder in the neighborhood games and using our bare hands to catch the ball. And going to the beach in an old Cadillac we bought for 300 dollars. We cut the top off and drove it around all summer. And the girls were just so awesome, feminine and nice. What a great time to be on the planet. Summers have never been the same.
    Like 1 Person
  • godfatherfan
    Yet we managed to live through all those horrible things. In the summer, my mother would say "get out of the house and come back when the street lights come on". No cell phones, no pagers. She had no clue where I was and what I was doing all day. We explored the world. We did not get all bent out of shape when the world wasn't handed to us or we had to actually work for stuff.
  • Ez-Bri-Z
    Y'all aren't even talking about the stuff just around the house! 43 cans of hairspray to keep your hair up. Slip n slides. Ez bake ovens. The cereal that gave you diabetes just by walking past it. Oh and like everyone smoked back then and kids were just expected to deal with it.
  • Daniela1982
    Kids use to sleep on the back seat shelf, and as you said, no seat belts. That is why Jane Mansfield was killed in an auto accident when she flew through the windshield and got scalped. But parents also taught us a little more than kids get taught today. How Did The 80's Not Kill (Most Of) Us?How Did The 80's Not Kill (Most Of) Us?
    • I remember my dad wouldn't start the car until everyone had their seatbelts on. One of his younger brothers was killed in a minor car crash when that brother was only around 19 I think. So he was always very cautious.

  • kqueen
    weren't the 80's the era of serial killers, widespread crime, kidnappings, etc? plus kids did die, that's why we have seat belt laws.
    Disagree 1 Person
    • Djaay

      Seat belt laws were because different states had high freeway speeds that were 70+ . The death toles were humungus and the state was very responsible for all those deaths. So after that they adopted a speed of 55 claiming it saved more gas rather than directly take resonsibilty for the real reason to reduce the speed limit. . So they pointed the finger at stupid irresponsible teens instead.

    • kqueen

      @Djaay people still routinely drive 70+ on the freeway, so not much has changed there. Do you really think seat belts don't help people stay alive in car crashes?

    • Djaay

      Sure they do... thatvwasnt my point tho.

    • Show All
  • Poobutt711
    Welcome. to. the real world where people actually went outside and did shit.. it's the reason why 80s kids didn't grow. up to be losers... All these overly protected coddled mellenial kids are being forced inside from the "big bad world" forced to be on the phone 99.9. percent of our life... It's the reason so many of us are fucked up with mental problems, and why do many incel killers and school shooters exist..
    Like 2 People
  • AviatorTom
    I don't know about you... I spent the 80s in an alternate universe, working with aliens on the planet Xenon. It was only a 10-Earth-year gig and I was back on Earth for the 90s.
    Funny 2 People
  • GoodGuyBreakingBad
    I was born in 1968 but went through the '80s, I was in Middle School and bullying was bad for me I had a lot to deal with a lot of mental and physical abuse. The '80s were the years my late maternal grandparents had us over for Sunday dinners and there was an outburst between the family and my uncle and aunt picked up with the cousins and left from that day on my grand-dad said, there would never be another Sunday meal.
    Like 1 Person
  • Friendlybro79
    Some of the things that happened with all the things you mentioned were actually not great outcomes for kids.

    Action Park is a great example. People died and ridiculous amounts severely injured with the don't worry about it approach which was rampant 70s-80s.

    Kids were getting f'd up before helmets etc

    Point is you made it out fine but enough people didn't that prompted more change around safety etc.

    Have we gone too far? Possibly.
    Like 1 Person
  • Staximus
    In the 80's, I was ran over by a van on my skateboard and walked home when I was 7. Walking to and from school in first grade, getting suspended for fighting 3 times in second grade, staying home with my bro until my parents got home at age 9, riding in the back of a pickup truck while my friend's dad drove drunk, the list can go on and on hahaha
  • exitseven
    Yes, There is a book about this Called Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.
    My father took out the back seat of the car and put a sheet of plywood and a blanket back that for me and , my brother. We just crawled around with our toy trucks.
    Like 1 Person
  • Old_Golden
    Bc our parents were high on coke/shoulder pads/hairspray (pick one, or all), were raised by a generation that understood that talking about "feelings" is a bad idea, and didn't have any nazis to punch so they elected Reagan and thought invading Iraq was a good idea. Twice. But we got a Howard The Duck movie produced by George Lucas out of it!
    Helpful 1 Person
    • goaded

      They "didn't have any nazis to punch" because there were people around who remembered exactly what they were like. Unfortunately, that's being intentionally obscured, today.

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