There's still kids smoking like that in Brazil. The Tupi Guarani tribe (some) use pipes and tobacco for spiritual reasons and young kids actively participate. Hell, they take a smoke break from soccer.
I hypothesize that much of this happens in the vacuum created by the absence of father-son interaction. I'm judging not necessarily by appearance but by behavior. I try to interact with my son as much as possible, teach him about what I happen to be doing (e.g. cooking, fixing something) and let him participate to the extent possible.
From what I've seen, children whose fathers engage them throughout life tend to be children of character and moral fortitude. One thing modern life has brought is a "press play, walk away" attitude to parenting which is reflected in much of the dissatisfaction and disengagement with life we see in young and emerging adults. It's not a new thing and it began generations ago, however it has worsened with technological advances that make parenting "easier" in the short term. We have created make-believe worlds for countless generations and convinced impressionable consumers (e.g. children, who can't discern truth from make-believe) that they are acceptable models for behavior. For example, the idea of the social media and television being a mirror for normal human behavior and interaction where children "learn," again in a vacuum devoid of real social interaction, what is normal and what is unacceptable. Just as your health is a mirror of your habits and practices, so are these vulnerable segments of our society (i.e. children maturing into adulthood) a mirror for our own societal health.
There are many, many examples of young adults now that simply don't know how to engage in society on a normal level. For example the Japanese Hikikomori---young people who never leave their parents' home under any circumstance. Then there's the "incel" (a new one I'd never heard of) who are young men with such an intense fear of rejection and self-doubt that they project their inability to find a girlfriend upon the very culture of women itself. These are extreme examples but rest assured that the problems are much more pervasive and exist in shades and tones that are more subtle and difficult to detect. I recall a recent article where a journalist finds out, after searching her son's cellphone for whatever reason, that her son had been engaging in Neo-Nazi communities online. How the hell does that happen behind your back? It's true you can't be in all places at all times but letting the internet parent your child in this case wasn't a great idea.
This thread made me think of the article I just read about Oxford University banning clapping to stop those of a nervous disposition from suffering an anxiety attack, apparently they are now going to use 'jazz hands' instead.
Obviously my first thought was what's going to happen to the poor students who are terrified of jazz hands? Hopefully they can come up with something to soothe these poor people's fears as well.
There are weird things happening, and it's not new (Aristotle lamented that state of the Greek youth 2500 years ago, right?). On one hand, there is a lot of dysphoria in youth, induced by a level of connectivity to facts and ideas (politics, "news" etc) but maybe a disconnection with immediate reality around them. I loved the fact that as a parent, I could just text my kid and find out where they were, who with, when coming home etc, I feel that I am closer in many ways to my kids than my parents were to me, that less separates me from my kids' generation.
And there's all sorts of good folk out there. I was installing a washing machine at the local dog shelter and one of the young women who worked there helped clean the area, helped move the machine, was just very useful in general, and when we talked about building a fence out back she later sent me a message saying "If this happens, I will absolutely help, I'm just a set of hands but I will be there." A good kid (about 22 and she's had a relatively hard life, actually, not a great family setup).
My own kid is a little on the genderless side, she's a she and fine with that, but she doesn't like imposed roles, she wears "girls" clothes sometimes, and "boys" clothes other times, generally goes without makeup. I find her and her friends very strange, if I bring pizza home they... might... have a piece, and they might not. They'd rather go for sushi at 10 o'clock at night. My friends, we would have eaten ALL the pizza, and the box, and THEN gone for sushi. This is a slightly detached generation, and we are, in some way, all at fault, and maybe, just maybe, a part of their detachment is having a bunch of old geezers like us saying "Ha! Lookit them kids, why, when I was young....." And the truth is, when you was young, you was a dipshit just like they are now. I think things will be okay, in general. Are there specific cases of weirdness approaching the dangerous? Yes, but there always have been - we just see them, identify them readily now.
Hand clapping? And other triggers? I firmly believe a lot of that is because of kids who are like me at that age. We dearly loved screwing with the adults. Today's adults let them get away with it, encouraging such behavior. So ... the kids get the message that they are being catered to.
I won't bad mouth an entire generation, too many kids willingly going in harm's way and dying for our freedoms to be lumping. My generation is lumped as the "anti-war" and "doper" generation. If you believe that, go see the memorial to so many of my peers. It's in D.C. if you are in the area and, care.
I highly recommend anyone even remotely interested in this topic read, The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. It's available in paperback and most any library would have it. If not, your local library can certainly get it for you via interlibrary loan (yes, there are still libraries, yes there still books, and yes, there's still interlibrary loan). The book is neither left nor right, there's plenty of blame (so to speak) to go around. It's a fantastically interesting and eye opening read.