The helicopter and snowplow parents with means have withdrawn their children from the street, and often their homes from the “parental commons,” the system of expectations and resources that were held in common by members of a neighborhood that allows it to support its own kids’ socialization without intense supervision and micromanagement.

By the time kids are old enough to go out on their own, parents have usually had a number of unforgiving interactions in which adults made them and their children feel unwelcome in any public space. So they fear Child Protective Services or other agencies getting called on them for allowing their kids what used to be a normal level of independence. I know I’ve already seen other parents react with concern and horror at seeing my own kids alone for even a few seconds before they notice that I’m just 20 yards away myself. And the kids themselves have lost some of the motivation. Screen culture allows teens and tweens some measure of private socialization even as they remain under the watchful eyes of Big Father, Big Mother, or Big Sitter. The result is great for child minders, after-school clubs, day care, and the people who profit from teen social networks and YouTube. It’s great for commerce; I’m not sure it’s great for parents or children.