Candace Jackson just wrote an interesting piece for the Wall Street Journal about luxury, over-the-top spaces for kids. It's tempting to focus on the money being spent on these elaborate bedrooms and "teen lounges," but what I find much more interesting is the reason many parents cite for creating these teen havens at home and how it may affect kids and the family dynamic.
The spaces Jackson describes range from designer bedrooms (we know a little something about these) to hangout rooms or "teen lounges" with video games, karaoke, indoor basketball courts, etc. contrived to keep kids home where parents can keep an eye on them. This theme emerged with many parents Jackson spoke to: wanting to keep kids home and, presumably, safe. Another motivation by some parents is to be able to monitor their kids' screen usage and hopefully decrease screen time by offering other fun alternatives.
Many of the homes Jackson references are big. In one, two kids each had a 2,000 sq. foot suite to themselves. The excess angle is a valid one, but what strikes me most and, frankly, troubles me most is how arranging a home in this way encourages family members to retreat to their own "corners", so to speak. Parts of the home where family members traditionally overlap and interact - the living room, the bathroom - for example, are being replicated so everyone has their own space. Perhaps staying out of each other's way helps keep the peace a little bit, but can it outweigh the benefits of learning to live in close quarters together, sharing space and time together?
I don't have a teen yet, but I'm sympathetic to the underlying desire to keep them close and safe. Perhaps more than any other demographic, there just aren't enough public places where teens are welcome. I used to be a Young Adult Librarian and teens often told me that aside from sports or school groups, they didn't have anywhere to go after school. (And did I field complaints from other library patrons about teens being too loud or rowdy? - you bet). In the face of society at large not providing enough safe public spaces for teens, in the way that we do with playgrounds for young children, for instance, the instinct to entice your children to stay at home, under your watchful eye (or maybe not, if they're secluded away in their own suite) is understandable. But our teen years, as we're budding into responsible adults, are when we most need to interact with the world, get our feet wet for college or life beyond our parents' home and these home-based teen hangouts seem quite counter to this notion.
You can find Candace Jackson's article, along with photos at the Wall Street Journal. I'm curious to read your reactions.