The changing role of parents in an age of electronic communication

I was thinking today about how much parenting has changed since I was a kid. My poor 9-year-old will never have the freedoms I enjoyed as a kid.

Back then in the summer, I would ride my bike all over the neighborhood. I think the only rule was to be home about the time the street lights came on. All of the kids in the neighborhood would meet up at an undeveloped lot in the middle of the neighborhood and play baseball or catch whatever the beautiful summer day would allow.

I don’t think my parents ever really even knew where I was most of the day. We would check in at whoever's house was close to grab drinks and snacks, but I don’t remember ever having to stop and call my parents if it didn’t happen to be their house.

Many times, it was my mom who had drinks and snacks for whatever random kid came over. Even to this day any neighborhood kid even if my mom has no idea who it is could stop and get a drink and snack.

My poor kid on the other hand. She must have her cell phone leash on her at all times. She must call and check in when she goes somewhere even if it is just walking the dog around the block. We have neighborhood kids around her age, and sometimes she wants to go see if they can play.

Usually, the parent will answer the door and say no since none of these kids go outside and play anymore. Rarely do you see an impromptu game of baseball just in the neighborhood. Now it all must be planned to the minute and liability signatures from everybody just in case.

Three copies of who is allergic to what just in case somebody wants a snack. It’s exhausting to try and let her play with another kid, so all summer if it is not something planned, she will just be on her iPad or whatever electronic device she has handy. You could say maybe the world has become more dangerous, but I think in reality cell phones have changed the world possibly for the worse. 

Somebody the other day said to me, “That's as American as apple pie." It got me to thinking since I had apple pie style deserts in Germany how true a statement that is. It turns out that apple pie was not a dish invented in America, and there are variations of the dessert going back as far as 1381 in England.

The expression, on the other hand, seems to stem from an advertisement for suits in 1924, which later during WW II became a favorite saying of American soldiers, with many claiming they were fighting for mom and apple pie. 

As a matter of fact, the apple is not native to America at all, having been brought over by colonists. The only native apple is the crabapple. However, John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, brought apples to America and planted them all over the country.

Still not dessert apple, they were for making hard cider. He would plant orchards of apples to secure free land, which you needed to prove you were making better to keep. 

So I guess as American as apple pie isn’t that American, but it is as well.

David Koen is an Amarillo native who owns Doche Cleaners and is an active member of the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute. Learn more at