Wretched Excess Dept: Mega-Rec-Rooms to Keep Kids Inside

the return of the rec room photo

Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

Back in the day, you told the kids to go play outside; the outdoors, the street, the park, they were the rec rooms. When they got to be teenagers, they went and hung out with friends. Some got into trouble; most didn't. Things changed. Even though crime rates have dropped to the lowest level in decades, cities like New York are as clean as Disneyland and bikes are cool again, Architecture professor Dana Cuff can say to the Times:

"There is a rise in home technology, all your friends are online, and there are far fewer safe, interesting public spaces to hang out in," she said. "All of these things come together, and parents start creating houses within houses for their teens."

So parents are paying big bucks to put in fancy rec rooms with big TVs and Wiis and pool tables. "The nice thing is that they all hang out in their space and do what they do and we don't have to worry about where everyone is," [Atlanta parent Beth] Fowler said. "There are drugs and alcohol and sex and a million other temptations out there, and I think the kids are often just as nervous as the parents are. Having a cool place to hang with friends under your own roof just makes it a little bit easier."


"The Goldrings, a family in Pacific Palisades, Calif., created an indoor-outdoor cabana-style pool house for their two teenage daughters and their daughters' friends with daybeds for sleepovers, a bath and shower, and a roof deck." Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

Peter Skarzynski has six kids, so I will cut him a little slack for wanting to give them a rec room, but "a pool table, Ping-Pong table, a Sony projector with a 100-inch screen, a popcorn machine, a PlayStation and an Xbox, and a full kitchen where the children often cook for friends. "We have kids eating over here, sleeping over here and playing all day here," Ms. Skarzynski said. "It's a priority for us to create a space where our kids can have their own friendships, their privacy and their own lives. It creates a lot less anxiety for everyone."- that is a bit much.

All the statistics agree that our cities are safer than they used to be. Going outside and walking or biking to a friend means exercise. Bikes are now cooler (and cheaper to operate) than cars for a lot of kids. Cities have built new parks, museums and recreational facilities to keep kids active and healthy. Instead, parents are turning them into couch potato basement-dwelling morlocks to keep them in sight.

There were and always will be "drugs and alcohol and sex and a million other temptations out there"- learning how to deal with temptation is part of growing up. Throwing a rec room and a 100 inch sony and a Wii at your kids doesn't make them go away. What an appalling trend. ::New York Times
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