22 Things That Were Part Of Growing Up In The ’80s That Are Practically Illegal Today (And Some That Actually Are)


The world has changed drastically since we were kids. While technology and the Internet has definitely been a big part of why growing up today is so different, that’s not the only change that’s happened. In a lot of ways, the ’80s were just a simpler time, and some things that we were totally cool with, or at least willing to overlook, would probably get us arrested today. Here are the things we grew up with that would never fly today.

Totally non-existent car safety

Safety standards are a lot more intense now than they were 30 to 40 years ago. Back then a lot of safety regulations were less like rules and more like mild suggestions. Suggestions that most people just ignored. Like remember sitting in the middle of the front seat? That way you could not only control the radio, but also guarantee that if you crashed you’d be getting a faceful of dashboard.

Or what about those awesome seats in the back of the station wagon that we’d always fight over while on family road trips?

And of course these questionable seating choices were made more fun (and dangerous, I guess) by the fact that seat belts were treated as entirely optional.


And while car seats did exist, they were also treated as mostly optional.

Riding in the bed of a pickup truck

If you grew up in the country then you definitely did this at one point or another. There was just something so wonderful about feeling the wind blowing through your hair while lounging with your friends, though if the road was super bumpy there was a small part of you that worried you’d get bounced right out of the truck.

Getting left in the car while your parents go into a store

Trying to wrangle kids while you’re running errands can be an absolute nightmare, so sometimes our parents would just make us wait in the car. We could always just roll down a window and the doors were usually unlocked, but it still wasn’t a great idea.

Being totally unreachable


In the days before cell phones it wasn’t unusual for us to leave the house having only told our parents that we’d be back by dinner (or dark, even). As far as they were concerned, we basically fell off the face of the Earth until we either came home or called from a payphone to get picked up from where ever we’d ended up.

Secondhand smoke

Sometimes it seems like basically everyone in the ’80s smoked. Secondhand smoke was just something everyone had to live with and not many people were really worried about it or exposing their kids to it. Most kids were smoking anyway, so I guess getting it secondhand didn’t matter much.

Biking without a helmet


Bike helmets just…weren’t really a thing. Neither were elbow or knee pads when it came to stuff like roller skating. At least it forced us to be extra careful and aware when we were riding around.

Being a latchkey kid

Adults were busy working and doing stuff, so it was just easier for us to be able to let ourselves in when we got home from school. And if you had younger siblings, chances are you’d be the one in charge of keeping them alive ’til your parents got home.

As far as our parents were concerned, if you were old enough to be able to dial «911» then you were old enough to be responsible for younger kids.

Buying cigarettes and alcohol for your parents


Again, adults were busy people, so if they didn’t have time to run to the store to pick up the essentials, they’d send us off with some cash (or even a signed blank check) and a note for the cashier. And no one ever questioned it.

Giving kids beer for fun

Considering how laid back most people were about smoking, it’s not surprising that alcohol would be any different. It’s not like we actually enjoyed it when we were that young anyway.

Showing up unannounced

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Sometimes the easiest way to see if your friends were home and wanted to hang out was to just go knock on their door. Because if you tried calling you might have to *gasp* talk to their parents.

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But that wasn’t the only thing we did at other people’s houses that would be impossible today.

Just tossing your bike on the lawn of whatever house you were at

Whenever we’d bike to a friend’s house, we’d basically just drop our bike on the lawn and head inside. It made it super easy to find where your friends were, but if you tried this now chances are you’d never see your bike again.

Physical punishment

The whole concept of «spare the rod, spoil the child» was considered a totally reasonable method of discipline. Didn’t matter if it was our parents, other family members, or teachers, if we misbehaved or were disrespectful, the punishment was swift and painful.

Drinking and driving


It’s not that drinking and driving wasn’t illegal, or wasn’t terrible, it’s that in the days before M.A.D.D. a lot of people didn’t see cracking open a beer on the road as a huge problem. Chances are if you got caught, the cops would just make you pour your drink out or pick who they thought was the least drunk to take over driving before sending you on your merry way.


It wasn’t that environmentalism didn’t exist, just more that most people didn’t really care. Plus recycling was only something those dirty hippies did.


Bringing peanut butter in your lunch

There were plenty of kids back then that had peanut allergies, but peanut and other allergy bans just weren’t a thing. To make things worse, Epipens didn’t hit the market until 1987, so if you had a severe allergy you pretty much just had to hope you wouldn’t die.


We all thought they were so cool, and we all totally wanted one at the time. But now if someone told you they had a waterbed, they would honestly seem a little creepy.

Hanging out at shopping malls


If you were a teenager in the ’80s then you definitely spent most of your free time just chilling with your friends at the mall. Not shopping, just hanging out. While plenty of kids still go to malls today, if you just sit around for «too long» then they’ll start accusing you of loitering.

Gender-specific classes

Basically every high school had these classes, and but only girls could take Home Economics and only guys could take shop classes. Seems especially silly since both teach some pretty important basic life skills, but that’s just the way things were.

Violence and nudity in PG movies

The «PG-13» rating didn’t exist until 1984, so before that PG movies got away with a lot more. Then Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins came along and people realized the gap between «PG» and «R» was maybe a little too wide.

Chicken pox parties


Back before chicken pox had a vaccine, most people felt it was best to just get chicken pox out of the way so you wouldn’t have to worry about it killing you as an adult. As soon as one kid started showing signs, it was time to gather every child you knew who hadn’t gotten it yet for a good ol’ fashioned party. Because nothing says «fun time» like exposing young children to infectious diseases.

Fake wood on everything

A hold-over from the 1970s, fake wood paneling was everywhere. On our walls, on our cars, even on our electronics. It was just as hideous then as it is now, but apparently we were blind to it. Some monsters have tried to make it have a comeback, but fortunately, it never seems to last.

Playing outside unsupervised

When we weren’t in school, basically our parents would kick us out of the house at the earliest opportunity, and we weren’t supposed to come back until either dinner or dark, whichever came first.


Times definitely have changed, but hey, we survived, right?