Monday, January 2, 2017
A Really Long Post On Millennials/Social Media/Cell Phones
This is about 20 minutes long (watch the whole thing!), sent to me by my mother (an education consultant/teacher-trainer), sent to her by an administrator of a school, all who are very very thoughtful and concerned about child/adolescent tech usage.
It is thought-provoking. It made me feel very unsettled, angry, and sad, helpless, and I couldn't get it off my mind. It led to some good discussions here, as I forced my older kids to watch it. I sent it to friends I know would be interested and also have the same concerns and worries about this subject as I do.
Which is pretty much everyone I know. Because tech has infiltrated our kid's world. I see toddlers with Ipads and frankly I will tell you it turns my stomach and I am glad it does. To me that is indicative of the world I grew up in-the one that says that children learn by reading, by observing, by being outside, be being bored, by looking around them. They don't need beeping lights. They don't learn from stinkin' Dora The Explorer app in any way shape or form, but with their hands and active deep brain processing. They'd learn more with mud and sticks and acorns and flour and water and leaves and a paper and pencil and a few books than the latest Ipad. They'd do more for their brains and their psyches and their souls with that little list BY FAR than the latest gadget.
And then they go to school and I have been in enough school meetings, with administration and other parents to know that there are many who are concerned about tech. And not keeping tech out of kids hands but bringing it to them more and more often-into classrooms everywhere and all the time, which also turns my stomach. I think many administrators and teachers feel exactly like I do-but the competitive selling point of the school is what tech they supply, which means it all comes down to money, not is what is best for the kids. Money over kid's brains.
The parents talk of tech like this is an utterly essential aspect of life that will determine the kids will succeed or fail. I have talked to enough teachers to know that there are very limited benefits of it. Kids learning by interacting with others, by reading and listening and reciting and by the sight and sound and touch of pages turning. No books in classrooms? That's awful and no one will ever convince me otherwise because it's just common sense, a rarity today when it comes to just above everything.
And then there is the psychological aspect and no studies can prove to me what I know from talking face to face to other parents and being one myself, and teachers and those that help children-doctors and therapists. Our children are changing and NOT in a good way. In a terrible drastic scary way. Addiction and I'm not just talking porn which deserves all the talk it is getting, but addiction like not being able to part with a phone, flipping out when they have to, endless hours and hours and hours on social media and texting and games and forums. Hours and hours, days and days. I see parents frustrated but many in the end giving in and saying, "What can we do?" But it doesn't change the fact that teens brains are hard-wired for addiction. And tech can be addicting! We all know it can be and to deny otherwise is just that-denial. We are handing it to our children at their brain's most vulnerable time of addiction (just like Mr. Sinek in the video alludes to) and are saying, "Have at it." And we are introducing these habits younger and younger. And the incidence of depression and anxiety and suicide and struggle with addiction are rising.
And the excuses. I've heard them all, some of them I've made myself. And we all know they are ridiculous because we are HERE today and we made it without cell phones to call mom on when we get here or there, home or away. We all figured out how to get from Point A to Point B and we can still do that, but I don't think the younger generation can because they haven't learned the skill. I can tell you that I can argue against every excuse for tech under the sun that has ever been invented. Because parents are great at justifying, but teens-they are even better. I've heard them all, bring them on.
I've also given in to them, and deeply regretted it. I've learned many many more lessons than my children have when it comes to tech. I've learned right along with them and that is a huge caveat of my generation (I am 47) who were literally thrown into the storm with no help, no advice, no guidance except from people trying to make a buck off of our children (the tech companies). That storm was changing it's course every day and we couldn't keep up. I grew up thank the Lord without any of it, and I raised my first three children up to their teen years without any of it. I remember writing letters and posting them, and film cameras, and learning how to send an email and be blissfully awesomely unaware of everything in this little black box of an internet.
I've had my own journey with tech-from realizing the pull of social media and hating where it took me and hitting the delete button and feeling a huge sense of relief from pressure and from getting my precious time back with not one regret of saying no to it all. Time is what our kids need from us parents, and social media is the biggest time suck ever. I learned a lot from blogging-a time-suck again, choosing whether to participate in that time-suck, and then also comparisons and awareness of a deep desire to be real instead of falling into the trap of presentation and perfection which is so common on the internet but is also so untruthful-integrity and being aware of it. Being aware of the good/bad and what weighs more and how I can influence that weight tremendously.
It took years to work out the way I wanted to use the internet so that it could be something positive and healthy in my life and it takes self-awareness and honesty and thoughtfulness and self-discipline. But it also took being aware of what I was missing post-internet and what I lost compared to pre-internet. Our children will not be able to do that. You don't know what you've lost if you aren't even aware that something is missing. That is what it comes down to. What is missing?
-A clear head instead of one that is filled with too much information which is dangerous-dangerous in the way that we become immune to what is really important.
-A life lived with what is in front of you instead of what exists out there somewhere. With WHO is in front of you, in that chair across from you, in that house you live in. With the books on your bookshelf, the recipes in your cabinet, the fresh air outside your door, and the creativity you thought of in your own mind with the supplies you have in your own house.
-Presence, mindful and physical and emotional presence.
-Authenticity and integrity and empathy and humility: four huge important things that are missing from most everything on the social media.
I am waiting for the switch to flip. To switch to parents knowing the dangers that are far and wide and all encompassing and realize that what will make their child happier, more creative, more intelligent, more empathetic, more healthy, more employable, better workers, have fuller, richer, healthier minds and bodies and souls is the LACK of tech in their lives. The later they touch an Ipad, a computer, a phone, the BETTER off they will be.
Yes, I've heard the "tech isn't going away" reasoning and yes, it's true, but if that is used an excuse to just accept all the bad with the good, no thanks. It CAN go away, and it must, in many situations. We also have to do a better job in educating our children on the negatives. And a phone contract is a good idea, but it must go further than that. They need to know from the minute they start using it (and if they can't understand this they shouldn't be using it) the way their brains react chemically. They need to know how gaming and social media companies purposely make every facet of their product addicting. Purposely!
We need to stop (OK not stop but get real) about all this "stranger danger on Facebook" talk that seems to always be the one and only thing talked about when it comes to kids and tech and talk about the every day danger-not the one in a million danger. The danger of the loss of concentration, the struggle with being "on" all the time, the images filling up our children's heads-the fake lies of perfection. We need to talk about sexting and porn yes, for sure, but we need to show them what it does to relationships-what is missing and the shallowness of it all. I want an awesome group of speakers to come to every junior high to call out our administrators and us, the parents, and give us all a huge talking to-to empower us to say no as parents, and demand more and show us all the data and research that is only just being talked about now. There are very very few experts that will do this I've found. I've read enough "parenting" books that drop the ball majorly when it comes to really talking about what kids and parents are struggling with and will go out on a limb to say "these need to be your rules if you want to raise these children properly".
I say all this all out of frustration-and I'm frustrated by what I myself just did-I wrote about it and gave no real solutions and no answers. This video is informative and eye-opening and needs to be heard. But I wonder if this speaker even has kids and if he did what his rules would be knowing all that he just spoke about. Realistically what would he do? What if the schools he sent his children to handed them a laptop? Or let his kids have their phones all day in school and use them in the classroom? How would he teach balance with a kid who was always "doing his homework" when he had a big hunch that wasn't true? Would he let his daughter have an Instagram account and when? I have about 20 more questions I'd like answered with specifics. Because it's not ever as easy as it sounds-in the elementary years, yes, but in the teens years, not always.
I get angry because there is a lot of spouting off about our generation and our millennials (and trust me I get it!) but when it comes to tech please have at it. Experts, give me your rules and suggestions but ONLY if you've had direct success with them all in your home yourself and only if you define what "success" is. I find our parent's generation doesn't really understand what we are up against and will not directly offer any advice. I have had many grandparents complain to me by what they see (and I agree with them!) but in a way they are adding to the problem by not speaking up and wanting to keep the peace. Help us, support us, give us a little boost when we are fighting against the tide of the crazy "norm". (Thank you Mom!)
Do you know what else we need? We need to be honest with ourselves and with each other. We need to share our rules and empower each other. I've had enough emails that have said to me, "I don't want to give in but my child is asking for the latest ____ but I don't really want him to have it. He'll be the only kid on the block who doesn't." I once wrote to a mom who I admire to ask her a question about how she handles the homework/tech thing and she told me her kids didn't have Ipods/Ipads/phones or their own laptop till college!!! College!!! (This was about a year ago not 10 :). She said, "We just said no and stuck to it and kept them busy with other things. We have a family computer for school work." That was so empowering to me at the time. I know a few of my friends who have little ones and they have had little or no access to tech (as my kids have till high school) and will continue to say no for a long long time. I think as this problem has crept down to newer parents, those who don't fully have their parenting confidence in place, it is more important than ever to hear from those who don't allow technology and think there kids are much better off for NOT having it. We've all seen this article before right? (Another similar one here.)
What would my "dream world" look like when it comes to all of this?
Very very limited tech usage (meaning almost none and in junior high used rarely in a classroom only) at home for kids from birth to junior high. They learn to read, and write and communicate and concentrate deeply. Tech exposure is thought of as detriment instead of an advantage.
In high school we'd begin first with major education when it comes to brain reaction to technology and the awareness of being "sucked in"-"your brain on tech". A strong strong awareness of the "dark side" of the internet from dishonesty, misrepresentation, advertising, false information, the science behind addiction and how companies use that, etc. How and why to make choices when it comes to participation in social media-etc. An entire class on it all, with reminders and constant guidance and parents teaching first at home and setting rules in place. Would this all make a difference? I don't know-those hard-wired teen brains. I've heard the "teach them balance" thing over and over again and I have yet to see ONE parent who feels they have been successful at this through the teen years when it comes to tech. We have to ask ourselves why teens love tech so much? Why are they so drawn to it during these years? My answer? Because it's the "easy way out" almost always. It requires less work, less thought, less growth emotionally and mentally and socially, less accountability, and more self-discipline. (The video touches on this briefly and it's so true-these are emotionally hard years!)
An acceptance of rules for parents that become the norm, which can only be realized through information and studies and articles and then general acceptance. This is why we don't encourage our teens to smoke and drink and if parents we knew did, they'd be frowned upon by most as bad parents. There needs to be a certain awareness and acceptance of what is good/bad for our kids first. (Smart phone in second grade? Not good!) It is just beginning as I have read more and more studies/articles coming out against use of tech and younger children, in schools and with teens and as more mental health professionals are talking about what they are seeing. Yes the tech companies will come out with their own studies but they have something to lose (akin to cigarette companies marketing to teens in days long gone). Certain societal norms need to be accepted-manners! We have manners because they were taught and modeled at home-they were in essence "rules" we followed. We need to do the same-set the example.