How Much Freedom Do You Allow Your Kids to Have?


2 years ago



Steven Rinella

15 appearances

Steven Rinella is an outdoorsman, conservationist, writer, and host of "MeatEater." Watch season 11 now at


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You know all your kids just cut loose on YouTube? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Luckily, one of my kids, all she likes to watch on YouTube is like there's a girl named Sniper Wolf, who's very funny, and she does like these reaction videos to stuff, but it's very G-rated, and she loves watching her, and you know, there's, you know, but I keep an eye on what they're doing, and I don't allow them to just start going crazy. Yeah. Because it's just, you just, you know, you never know. I mean, one day you just stumble upon an ISIS beheading video, and now you have, you know, your kids fucking waking you up in the middle of the night crying and screaming because they can't get this image out of their head. It's terrifying. It is. To be on the other side of it too, because when you're young all you want to do is throw off the chains. Oh yeah. And then all of a sudden you're like in the position of putting the chains on. Yeah, you gotta, it's like how much freedom do you give them? Like how much do you talk to them about stuff? How much do you let them figure the stuff out on their own? You know, it's tricky, and it's a weird world because it didn't exist previous. It's not like we're dealing with something that we went through when we were children. There was no Google when we were children. There was no, you know, live leak. You ever go on live leak? No. Fucking horrible videos. I know about it, but yeah. You can watch a lot of car accidents and animal attacks and just wild shit. Yeah, yeah. That's not, you know. That's not all that happened on there, except yeah, I have stumbled into that. But that wasn't, that didn't exist. But when I was a kid, if you wanted to watch something fucked up, you had a plan for it. Like when we wanted to watch Faces of Death, somebody had to get the video. One of our friends had to watch the door, you know, so like we were in the basement. One of the friends had to watch the door, make sure the parents didn't come down, and then we put it on the VCR and we were ready. Like if someone came down, you'd pop that fucking tape out and hide it. These kids today, all they have to do is just have a phone, you know, and a lot of times kids are 11 and 12, they have phones. And 12 year olds with a phone, I mean, they're going to start Googling people fucking, people getting killed. They're going to see, the most crazy shit, have you seen this? Your friends are going to say, have you seen that? And then you're going to look on your phone, there's no way to stop it. There's no way to stop it. Kids have wild fucking workarounds for like little restrictions. My sneaky little fucking kid, you know what she did? She screen recorded my wife when my wife went and put in a password for her screen time. Yeah. Nice move. Very nice move. She handed her phone over to my wife. My wife goes in and puts a password in for her screen time so she can only get an hour's worth of screen time a day. And then my wife checks, she's like, how the fuck you have four hours of screen time? What's going on here? So she, and then she figured out that the, really the little monster. Did you guys have public access when you were growing up? My public access TV, I used to see some of that. My first exposure to faces of death was after 10 o'clock, they could show whatever the fuck they wanted for whatever reason. Really? Not blatant porn, but porn. Really? I saw, that's what the Bud Dyer video of him shooting himself in the face. You saw that on TV? To the 21 gun salute when I was going to bed and I was like 10 years old. What? Yeah. No way. And then this guy ended up, I was talking with some of my friends when I was back at home in my reunion. This guy was, we all knew about him when we were like 12, 13 years old, had a show, painted up like an insane clown posse type character and would have like blood, girls, vaginas, lips, all sorts of wild shit. Really? Wild. And there was just like, the government was putting it on technically because of public access. So in public access there's no restrictions like there are with the access? I was asked, I don't, you guys didn't have, that's like what Wayne's World was, that's my only thing I knew growing up was like Wayne's World on the SNL was a public access show, but then we actually had public access and that's where wild shit was happening after 10 o'clock. I had a friend of mine who had a public access show. My friend Larry Rapucci, who's a stand up comic in, I think it was Larry's show, but he was a stand up comic in Boston. We all did a public access show when we were like struggling comedians. We all went on- You did the two? Yeah. I was like, I was like, we were dressed in a wig and I was like, we had like a dating show and- This is the wild guy that I would, this is from the 90s I think. I found it on YouTube, it still exists. It's like very David Lynch-y in this. So it's just so weird to watch now. Damon Zex. Oh, so he would, that's him on the right and him on TV? Oh, so he really planned this out. This was some weird shit. Wow. This is 96? He's doing coke, he's the tampons, it's all like again, I was a kid when I was seeing this stuff. Wow. To me it's not that strange- Where's that guy in there? Looks like Robert Smith in the cure, man. Someone found him, I don't know, I'm sure he's like on Facebook or he's probably doing this stuff still. Let's find him. Well, he's gonna find out now. Oh Jesus Christ. Wow, yeah. Hardcore. So he got away with this, this was all on- Yeah, but he wasn't even the only one, there was a clown called like Angstow, the clown that was like, I'm sure Redband knows about this stuff because he was a little bit older than me in the same area. That's probably why he- He was probably watching the same show. Where you brought up? This is why it might make sense now. Where you brought up? Columbus, Ohio. Wow. There's that, I mean, and then looking back into some of the stuff that was happening there, it kind of makes a little bit of sense, but if this wasn't going on everywhere, that's sort of like strange to me. I never saw it in Boston, but I might have been out of the loop. Might have existed, I just wasn't aware of it. But I thought the regulations were across the board if you were broadcasting. I didn't think that public access was different. Is it because it's local? Maybe and then there's like free speech laws that were getting into- again, I was a kid so I have no idea. I was just excited to see it. I just, it's not, it won't be available until spring, but for the last couple years I've been working on a book. This is the thing I thought I'd never do. I used to be annoyed by people who thought about their kids before I had kids, but I have a book that I just finished called Outdoor Kids Inside World. It's about kids in nature, raising kids. And yeah man, if you'd asked me dude, like 10 years ago, I'd have been like, don't wait I would do something like that. But it's harrowing man. It's like scary. What is scary? Having kids. Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah, worried about them and- Just like what danger. Yeah, and like trying to guide their experience, you know? And for me, I don't know, yeah, I found that exposure to nature, experiences of nature, any nature, is like, winds up being an avenue of approach that I have with them that works for both of us. It's like a common language, you know? Yeah. But yeah man, it's terrifying. And then the feeling of hypocrisy that you get of things that meant, that when you were young, things that meant a lot to you and felt very authentic to you, like freedom. Freedom to consume what media you wanted, freedom to talk to who you want to talk to, freedom to go where you want to go, that later you're in a position where you're denying someone something that you really wanted in an honest way when you were young. Yeah. I had a conversation with Jonathan- It's a push and pull man. Jonathan Haidt about that. You know, he talks about the concept of free-range kids. He lets his children wander. It was Jonathan Haidt, right? It was, right? The coddling of the American mind. He lets his kids wander around New York City. Like he lets his kids walk home from New York City. And you know, he's talking about one time his kid got a little lost and they were really, really scared. You know, it was like they were trying to find him and it's like a terrifying feeling. But that ultimately the development that the child receives from being able to navigate the world on their own is very valuable, but there's a risk. And so you like have to weigh this risk versus reward. And the opposite of that is people do helicopter parent. And we know how that turns out, right? That's not good when you overly coddle your kid and your kid is not exposed to any sort of adversity or any sort of danger or any sort of adventure or any sort of independence that it could be stifling. And then it takes a long time for the child to develop outside of that parental environment. Once they become free, there's different kinds of kids, right? There's kids that grow up in bad neighborhoods with very little parental guidance and they're 18. And then there's kids who grow up completely coddled and completely protected and insulated and they're 18. And then they run into each other. Totally different life experiences. And I was the former, you know, I was the kid that didn't have a lot of guidance when I was a kid and I was kind of a latchkey kid. I'm glad you just used that word. Yeah, that's a common word, right? Common phrase. Well, apparently it's not. No. I grew up with that word. I was commenting on how my wife in her early years was a latchkey kid and she's like, I haven't heard that word in a long time. I'm like, that used to be a word, dude, like latchkey kid. Yeah, you got a key. You got a key and you came home and no one was home. You know, when I was 12 years old. I mean, it wasn't like five days ago someone was pointing out to me that that word doesn't get used anymore. Yeah. Kids don't, I mean, it's kind of a different thing. You don't really see 12 year old kids walking home with a key and opening up their front door anymore. Yeah. I mean, I think about my children and how young they are and I can't imagine them doing that, but I did that. And I think that the independence that comes from being a kid who walks home from school by yourself and opens your door by yourself and you know, and then my parents didn't come home until, you know, whatever it was, they worked till five and then they were home. I was out. I would go places. No wonder where the fuck I was. There was no phones. There was no cell phones, you know? I could leave them a little post-it note or something like that. It's been interesting to watch as a parent the way that you, the different parents find what dangerous things they're comfortable with. Friends of mine, like my friend Kelly, that's in New York, right? And she'll talk about, and we have similar mindsets about exposing kids to risk and her kids will take the subway, right? Or whatever, home. And to me, where I live and have not had kids that age in the city, like I can't picture what she's getting at. You know what I mean? I go like, wow, that seems just kind of like... Praising. Yeah. How old is her? She was irresponsible. I was trying to think how, 14 and nine or 10, somewhere in there. And they all know they've been at it for a while. But either way, things that some people would regard, things that people from the outside would regard as hard to picture. But at the same time, I expose my kids to danger that I have decided is an okay danger to court. I'll expose them to being, they can be around grizzly bears. They can be unescorted in areas that have a lot of mountain lions and bears. We take small boats out in the very big water. We do all kinds of things, but it's like things that I've decided are good risk.