Now vs. Then

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Sophie Marcus, Writer

I’m pretty sure that all of us had heard our parents say once or twice, “things are not the same as they were when we were children.” So what is the difference between the Generation X’s environment when they were growing up versus the Generation Z’s?

Rather I am doing a homework assignment that takes me over two hours at night, or I send a text to a friend to make plans to hang out, my parents always tell me that when they were my age, the way they lived was very different from the way our current generation does. 

The Differences In Living Environments

It could be the big gap in the population, being 3.7 billion in the 1970s and now 7.8 billion. With an increase this big happening since the 1970s, there are bound to be significant differences in people’s housing situations. 

When my mom was a child, she was raised on a farm in Canada in a rural area. Her daily chores would consist of baking with her mother, milking the cows, feeding the livestock, and tidying the house. She would wake up early to feed the animals and then eat breakfast before her walk to school.

If she wanted to hang out with her friends, they would discuss it at school or through letters due to the fact that there were no cell phones at this time.  My mom and her friends would pass notes back in forth in class to their friends to talk and hope that the teacher did not find out because the teacher would ask them to read the note out loud. 

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Farms used to be more common than they are now. Small farms selling eggs and milk are less common than they used to be because of the big meat corporations and factories.

My mom is one of five children, and she recalls, “My four siblings and I shared bedrooms our entire childhood, and for the first five years we did not have electricity or running water. We had an outhouse that the seven of us shared.  At night, we had a pee pot that sat on the floor of the second story of our home, so that we did not need to walk downstairs and outside to go to the outhouse during the night.”  

Also, she said, “We had love and good homegrown food produced from our garden and livestock.  We never knew it any other way.  We had love and health. “ It is shown in a study that nowadays, the average amount of kids people have is around two, and at least 1.5 bathrooms.  

Growing up in Hingham, my dad had chores such as mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, dusting down the glass, and shoveling. 

Children born in the 2000s are not raised under the same circumstances as those born in generation x. I certainly do not live on a farm or have as many chores as my parents did back in the day. Sure I have day-to-day tasks like emptying the dishwasher, folding my laundry, and making my bed, but things are different from how they used to be.

Differences in Activities

In the 1970s, people grew up without electronics and many of the privileges that children today have. All everyone had was their family, which made everyone very close to each one of their siblings. You would form genuine connections with those around you, and not have any electronics and social media to cloud your headspace. The lack of electronics sparked creativity in many people to make their own games and enjoy others’ company.

Today in society, most people have phones: which can affect friendships, affect how one views themselves, and it can be an overall time suck. 

Phones are generalized to children around the age of 12, and iPads are introduced far before that. This just shows how electronics have a big impact on children at an early age. Even though phones are helpful for communication, phones are often overused.

Personally, I like to do different activities with my friends, and I can just enjoy the company of others even in silence, however, when I see other people hanging out it’s sad how much time they spend on their phones. My parents told me that when my brother and I were small, we would take toys and crayons to a restaurant with us. This would promote time together and we would learn all at the same time. They never used their phones and still do not when we go out. 

Now when I am out in restaurants, I see children younger than 2 years old playing with their parent’s phones or iPad.  It’s sad.  

People used to socialize more than they do now. This is not too shocking considering no one had a cellphone back in the day, and now 97% of people do. 

Children would play games like kick the can, spin the bottle, dress up, and do many activities that kids currently are semi-familiar with. However, even though some kids still play games and engage with their friends when they’re hanging out, there has been a big increase in how many younger people have electronic devices. Phones are not all they are cracked up to be, if a kid was to have one, they would discover shortly after that although they are addicting, they can be toxic. 


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There were many trending fashion statements throughout the 70s and 80s. The main clothing items people loved were bell bottom-flared jeans and frayed jeans. Bell bottoms have not been in style for a while, but they have recently made appearances in people’s outfits. Old trends from the 70s are coming back into the current fashion standards. This happens frequently, old retired trends return.

Back in the 1900s, they would call each decade a different era. The 70s era was known as the “hippie era.” Women would wear chokers, headbands, scarves, and wood accessories. Those who did not wear these items would dress more formally and express themselves through blazers, tight-fitting clothing, boots, and pastel colors.

Men wore more textured and bright-colored clothing. Fabrics such as corduroy, lace, flannel, tie-dye, and pleats were very common.

This decade increased the number of men who wore suits. Men’s clothing styles from the 70s to now have mostly stayed the same: khakis, jeans, and jackets are still popular. The items for clothing brands have not changed, but the different cuts of shirts and lengths of pants have changed. For example, men used to wear high-waisted jeans in the 70s, but not as many people wear them in this day and age. 

Currently, teens tend to wear Converse, Lululemon, and UGG-branded clothing. Common clothing items that people tend to wear are high-waisted mom jeans, athletic wear, white shoes, and many different hairstyles. The trending styles have definitely changed significantly from the old trends.


Depending on your country, punishments vary from physical to verbal punishment. However, if I know one thing for sure, it is that punishments are not nearly as harsh as they used to be. 

Back in the 70s and 80s, students would get punished by rulers. Throughout these years, there was estimated to be a total of 223,190 children hit by their teachers in the United States alone. 

However, teachers were banned from using any physical punishments on students in the 90s. In the 21st century, teachers often email students’ parents if their child misbehaves, or teachers would send them to the principals office. My mom told me a story about one of her classmate’s punishment from the principal in the early 80’s when she lived in Canada.  The student was made to pick up uncooked beans from the parking lot and place them back into the glass Mason jar that the principal dumped them from. 

Years ago, children would get spanked with a wooden spoon or face physical consequences from their parents, in contrast to today, if this happened parents would be in trouble with the law.  Both of my parents never did get spanked from their parents.  Although I have not been “grounded” in a while, growing up I would be sent to my room if I had an argument with my brother or different scenarios involving conflict with my brother. As I grew up, the consequences I would face would be things like getting my phone taken away and to write an apology letter. 

There is no comparison between the punishments children in generation x faced growing up versus generation z, considering the level of harshness.

Little things make a difference 

  • In the 70s, there was no such thing as cell phones, and children were not tracked down by apps like Life 360 when leaving the house. They were just told to come back before the street lights turned on. 
  • There were winners and losers, and not everyone got a ribbon for playing a sport
  • Kids would have penpals that they would send letters to.
  • Kids walked everywhere, rode bikes without helmets, rode in the back of pickup trucks without seatbelts (there were no seatbelts)
  • Both generations grew up with chia pets, slinkies, silly putty, play dough, spirograph, and hula hoops
  • The main bread brand was Wonderbread.

A lot of these things people may consider to be gross, or different, but when thinking about your childhood, just remember that everyone has different childhood memories and experiences. Times were different. Even for myself, when I get older, I will look back at my childhood and remember things that were and no longer are.  


Whenever I am in the car with my mom or dad and an older song comes on that I do not recognize, they always tell me that the singer was a big hit back in their day. Back in their time, when they were my age in the  80s, the main music genre was heavy rock. I have personally never been a fan of rock, but my parents always rave about the best rock bands and they enjoy singing karaoke of these songs in our home on the weekends.

 Some of the music is pretty good, I am not going to lie.  My parents tell me that the “classic” music that they had will never go out of style and the music I listen to today will never be remembered like the music they grew up on.  

The singers back then definitely have a different style than the ones nowadays. When looking back on how the 70s changed music for many people, it was because of the emergence of new artists, styles, genres, and more. Many styles like the blues and R & B were replaced by disco music, funk, and soul, these later became the most popular genres of the decade. 

Disco music was often stereotyped and considered African American music. Artists such as The Bee Gees, Chic, and Diana Ross absolutely dominated this time period. There were many concerts available, and the most often ones were held a place in the UK.  One of the biggest events in the 70’s was Woodstock. My mom’s parents were there when they were only 20 and 24 years old.  It rained the entire time. The bands were amazing.  

Some of the well-known rock artists of the 70s were Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Queen, AC/DC, and Fleetwood Mac. Many of these singers helped build the excitement for Bon Jovi’s music in the 80s. 

A majority of these artists are still very popular today. My mom will always say that you can tell when a singer who is popular today will still be trendy years down the road by how good their vocals are. 

The main genres of music that are currently popular are pop, country, rock, and rap. Some main singers that teens often listen to today are Taylor Swift, Drake, Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, SZA, Bruno Mars, Arianna Grande, Drake, Tyler the Creator, and Chase Atlantic. 

Overall, there is not really one main thing that makes one generation different from another generation, except age.