Headlines can sometimes make me all verklempt. Especially ones that have to do with my kids.
I try not to look. But sometimes, they’re handed to me on a silver platter with utensils so I can eat it all up and feel sick. Thanks to social media we see them all the time – with links – and likes and shares. I happened to see a few this weekend. They both left me wanting life on a secluded beach or in the country – away from technology’s sneaky, ever-expanding grab for my kids.
But we don’t live on a beach or in the country. We live smack dab in the center of all that’s good and bad. So I read the headlines … and feel a bit sick.
The first one I see informs me of the latest app waiting to claim my child in its evil scheme.
From Chicago, to Georgia, to Southern California, a new social media application is causing problems on middle school and high school campuses across the United States.
It’s called Yik Yak, a location-based app that creates an anonymous social chat room where up to 500 nearby users connect through GPS tracking on their phones. Less than 4 months old, Yik Yak has “a couple hundred thousand users, mainly in Southeast/East coast campuses,” its co-founder Brooks Buffington said.
Users are limited to 200 characters, and no pictures are allowed. If a post is “down voted” enough times by other users on the forum, the comment disappears. Tech experts are comparing the new Atlanta-based app to a cross between SnapChat and Twitter.
“The app was made for college-age users or above, for college campuses and to act as a virtual bulletin board, so it acts as local Twitter for their campus,” Buffington told CNN.
Although the app is meant for users age 17 and older, younger users can still sign up, and that’s where the issues have sprouted.
School administrators in Chicago said teens in some of their schools have used the free app for cyberbullying. Others have made anonymous bomb threats that have led to school lockdowns…
Keeping ahead of the latest and greatest is impossible. So what’s a parent to do? Apparently get rid of or lock-down every technology device in your home. Seriously. That’s what the experts have concluded.
10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under Age 12 (Chris Rowan, Huffington Post 3/6/14). Reasons like “Delayed Development,” “Epidemic Obesity,” “Digital Dementia,” “Addiction,” “Aggression,” and super scary “Mental Illness” can leave a parent weak at the knees. These reasons don’t even include access to and use of potential character-compromising apps like Yik Yak, SnapChat and the likes. The punches are followed by a knock-out conclusion:
The ways in which children are raised and educated with technology are no longer sustainable (Rowan 2010). Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology. A team-based approach is necessary and urgent in order to reduce the use of technology by children.
Well, a conclusion and a chart. A chart that confirms my children’s demise and my contribution to all the problems with “kids these days”:
Because, apparently – we’ve blown it. I Baby-Einstein’d, Veggie-Tale’d & Disney’d a lot in those 0-2 years when they shouldn’t have been watching anything. Let alone in the 3-5 age range, where I’m certain we [Understatement Alert:] exceeded an hour a day. Thankfully, when our oldest kids were young, we didn’t have a cell phone – so at least we did something right there… but not so much on the video games, or handheld-device use for my younger and older ones.
Breathe … not sure I can breathe… What do I do now? Dig a hole … hide in it? Throw in the towel? ….
Of course not. We love our kids. Just like our parents loved us in the midst of techno-creep.
I’m pretty sure my folks felt the same way about the television as I do about technology. Headlines and experts rightfully warned them about the dangers of excess viewing. Which is slightly laughable considering the fact that we would have been hard pressed to find something to watch on television for more than an hour or two a day.
Still, I remember when Cable came to our west Texas metropolis. Like a scene in a movie, residents rose up against the great evil perched on the edge of town. They put the Cable company on the ballot and fought a losing battle. Cable came to our city. We graduated from three station options to hundreds. And I’m sure many hours of warranted wringing of hands claimed our parent’s time. But we survived. And my parents loved us in the midst.
So what does a parent do when faced with these issues and headlines? The answer can most likely be found in training and grounding.
Justin Patchin, a cyber-bullying expert quoted in CNN’s Yik Yak article said it well:
“It is more important to talk to the students about how to treat each other respectfully. Whether it is happening in an application like this or Facebook or on e-mail, the emphasis for us has always been on those behaviors because it is easier to teach that than to restrict that to particular technology.”
We can’t stay ahead of it, so train in the midst of it. Training kids to read, to create, to imagine, to play. Training kids to consider others interests ahead of their own – the key component to so much in life. And grounding our kids to know that they have worth and purpose that is so much larger than the moment in which they’re living.
It’s challenging road – this parenting gig. I, for one, am grateful I don’t have to walk the road alone. I’m grateful for the headlines that keep me aware. And mostly I’m grateful to you for strolling alongside me on the no-one’s-asking-for-perfect road.