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tracer1138

Free the Latch-Key Children

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This article appeared online in today's Freep regarding a rise in incidences of graffiti in the suburbs, especially in Rochester Hills.

http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071007/NEWS03/710070597/1005/NEWS ://http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...0597/1005/NEWS ://http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...0597/1005/NEWS

It's something I've though about before and I was hoping others might weigh-in.

Do you think that this rise in graffiti (which may even be statistically insignificant) might have anything to do with the isolation psychology of suburbs. It seems to be that kids get into these kinds of things when they don't have anything else to do, for example, in Detroit, poor families with children living in emptied out neighborhoods mights see those children join gangs and begin to graffiti as a release for a stressed, underprivileged life with.

In the suburbs it may take the form of "latch-key children". Kids who live in these giant McMansions without cars of their own are essentially isolated in un-walkable neighborhoods. On top of that, the lack of any true "community" results in a lack of activities, thus these kids essentially have to cry out for attention which manifests itself in the form of graffiti (pleas note this is just my theory/opinion).

What do you think of this and what are other possible psychological side of effects of living in isolation in the suburbs... especially for kids?

Is this the sign of something more sinister brewing as we continue to sprawl ourselves into oblivion? How might the effects be different on new suburbs vs. older suburbs vs. central cities?

General Thoughts?

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It is an interesting thought. Im 21 and have basically lived my entire life in Rochester Hills, although not in a McMansion, but some of the older neighborhoods where ranches and smaller houses sit. Even though access to downtown Rochester wasnt always easy for me I never resorted to destruction of property like the kids youve described. I think suburbia can have effect on kids based on isolation, drug use and depression come to mind, but I also think a lot of it falls on the parents. My parents were always encouraging me to be active and meet new people and try new things. The suburbs and being isolated can play a huge part in these kid's behavior, but I think that is something that good parenting can remedy.

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I feel this issue is somewhat relevent to me. My early life wasn't in the suburbs, but in the city. Saginaw's neighborhoods may not possess the degree of "interestingness" of those in Chicago and New York, but definitely more interesting than the typical fringe area subdivisions going up today. My friends and I engaged in an assortment of activities, and did what most youth did like playing basketball, riding bikes, or building with legos. Ocassionally, we'd get more creative such as playing basketball in areas we weren't supposed to, disrupting traffic flow by building bicycle ramps in the streets, and building cardboard cities and simulating drive-by shootings. When that had been done several times, there was always the fun of doing something more daring...at least some activity that would not result in the loss of property (stealing) or injury to someone else. Exploring the city's storm drains was typical. It was definitely trespassing. but with no response to these activities from any higher authority like the police, and the fact that we weren't telling our parents who would definitely oppose, we continued. Then there came grafitti. As a kid, you knew things like fighting and stealing were wrong, but grafitti was like permanent sidewalk chalk. It didn't seem all that bad as long as it didn't end up on your neighbors fence. Retaining walls and overpass abuttments seemed to be the perfect canvas. They were typically out of the public eye, and had already sometime in the past seen several layers of spraypaint.

So did I partake in this activity? Once. I scrawled by nickname amongst many others beneath the Court Street bridge by Hamilton. Was this right? No, it perpetuated the same reasoning to others that motivated me to do it in the first place, not to mention was illegal. It was something I had wanted to try, despite the fact that I knew it was wrong and my parents would object and surely punish me. The neighborhood environment had nothing to do with it either, other than it could have done a better job at supervision. There was already plenty to do. It was my pursuit in trying other activities that led me to that. Fortunately for me, it never went beyond that. This activity accomplished very little as the city would paint the wall over as they did every few months, and I also found better things to do and eventually grew up.

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