Collapse of parenting in the age of Social Media

A recount of a workshop in Toronto

Yesterday we attended an event that changed my perspective on raising kids completely. I will try to summarize the key points as it will be helpful to all. The speaker was Dr. Leonard Sax. Even though it was at the mosque it was not related to any religion. The speaker is a Jewish Psychologist and author of a famous book call Collapse of Parenting. He had a lot of statistical information and tips to raise kids in America. Even though it was more focused on American Kids, it applies to bringing up Kids in the Age of Internet and Social Media, the evils of which have spread like an epidemic in the whole world. I can tell you that this was probably the best 3 hour workshop we attended. Even though a big segment was dedicated to social media, it was primarily about raising kids who will go on to have strong character and virtue. I have summarized the points below.
1) Statistically the biggest indicator of success at 32 years is having self-control. When a kid is 12 years old, success is determined by a lot of factors namely no drug, no criminal violation, having a stable job, good citizenship etc.
2)  Make your kids speak their native language at home and with you. Reduce generation gap by involving their grandparents in their lives. If possible try to convince their grand-parents to move in with you.
3) Make them feel proud of their heritage. Kids nowadays are ashamed to talk their language or wear their cultural attire. In a quest to fit in and assimilate they want to no longer associate with their roots.
4) Have a friend circle with folks whose kids also are able to communicate in the same mother tongue. This way the kids can talk the language among themselves.
5) Do not give them smart phones until you know they are responsible. Buy them a dumb phone if required. This phone will fulfil the needs.
6) He went onto compare American society of the 50s to now. The family unit used to be the focus of ads and movies. Now media has changed. At that time shows that depict parents as role models having strong moral characters were popular. Now shows like Simpsons etc. that show parents as dumb are popular. Make sure you keep track of things your kids watch. The more they watch shows like this the more they will lose respect for you as a parent.
7) Keep them away from games that promote violence and vice. He talked about Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto. Grand theft Auto in particular rewards a person for doing all the wrong stuff like stealing cars and killing people. What kind of character is that going to build? He talked about how violence in games is directly related to gun violence in America with statistical examples.
8) No TV or computers in the bedroom. Kids cannot be in the bedroom with screen whether its school work or something else. Make family room a place where screen time is allowed. Follow the example yourself as well. Bedroom should be a place to go to sleep not to socialize with the outside world.
9) Keep kids away from Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook if possible as long as possible. Put monitoring software on their devices so that every single picture they take or share, you get notified. Take their phones away at 9 in the night and give it back to them in the morning. Tell them that this is a condition going forward if they would like to keep their phone.
10) Be a peer to them but not a friend. If you become too friendly with the kids, they will start taking you for granted. Speak to them from a place of authority where No means No. When you take away the privileges from kids for their bad actions, they are going to resist. Be firm, remember you are the parent.
11) Girls according to statistics are greatly influenced by Instagram and Snapchat. Girls by nature will always post the good thing happening in their lives. This will create a false illusion among other girls and lead them to think that their life is a mess and make them go into depression. Boys are more influenced by video games. Limit screen time to 20 minutes a day during the week and 1 hour on weekends. But the condition is they complete all their school work. If they do not listen take away their devices.
12) Raise kids with humility, a very important characteristic. This can be inculcated by making them do chores at home even though u can afford maids. He said that the typical thing that parents say is my son/daughter is already so busy I cannot burden him or her. This is a very wrong approach and will make your kids grow up with a feeling of entitlement and selfishness.
13) The biggest detrimental effect of increased screen time or social media is the displacement effect, which means that the time they are spending on games is the time they are not spending on something useful.
14) Know what kind of music they listen to. The music of these times is ripe with sexual innuendo. Make sure they do not make people like Justin Bieber or Akon as their role models. He gave example of how the chartbuster song last year with some 1 billion or so downloads was filled with the most sexual content imaginable.
15) T-shirts with stuff written with rude and offensive remarks like “I will trade WiFi for my Brother”, “I don’t care” etc. should not be encouraged. T-shirts of these types when shown in Scotland and Australia, people found it very offensive. He actually talked about a guy he found wandering the Streets of Australia who was wearing this type of T-shirt. When Dr. Sax approached he found out he was an American visiting Australia.
16) America is one of the leading countries where drugs are given to kids in the name of ADHD and Depression. The statistics he said was the whole of France does not prescribe medicine for these disorders /as much as they would do in entire Houston. Any small issues with a kid, he is treated with anti-depression medicine. This is all destroying a generation.
17) He said religion is a very important factor in people’s life. Now a day’s people have made popularity, fame, money etc. as their God. When people lack a higher purpose in life then they try to make materialistic things as their end goal.
18) When they surveyed people in the 1980s in America as to what are the 15 most important qualities or characteristics people should possess. Having good character and helping people etc. were all top of the list and being famous was on number 15 on the list. Today becoming famous is at number one, signs of the changing times.
19) There is a big industry that makes phone apps that look like calculators, but when you enter a certain number it opens into an app that shows pornographic images. This way the kids can fool their parents. It goes beyond this. If the kid shakes the phone before handing over to the parent, the app disappears without a trace, not even in the recent list. Unless u download certain monitoring software it will be difficult for parents to keep on top of their kids’ online activity. Netnanny is one of the software he recommended.
20) The kids who are addicted to online bad video games, when we ask them, are there any changes in their personality, they compare themselves with who are their peers and in similar situation and feel that they are OK, normal. But they are not comparing with normal kids who are not addicted.
21) Having dinner/meal with family is very important. The kids who eat 7 or more times in a week with family vs those who eat alone, there is big difference in their stress level and self-control and happiness.
22) If you give 20 min screen time to your kids per day and if they don’t use it, those min should  not roll over to future dates.
24) Snapchat photos do not necessarily vanish in 5 sec. There are Apps that circumvent this restriction and allow you to take screen shots of photos without letting the sender know.
25) For current generation ‘how they look’ is more important than ‘who they are’.
26) Finally, the Doctor added a very important point. He said Human Beings have the longest period of childhood of all Mammals. Horses run Derbys when they are aged 3. This is by design for a reason. God has created human beings to have a long period (18 years) in which they are nurtured and the values re-enforced so that they stick with the individual for the rest of his/her life. Once the formative years are lost it is very difficult for an individual to change.

 

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