Our children experience enormous pressures to be online all the time. They are starting as young as 2 years-old on the iPhone and evolving to the 8 to18 year-old spending more than 7½ hours per day in digital activity of one form or another, and that doesn’t include cell phone use.
Some schools require children as young as 10 to have a Think Pad and to maintain a regular blog. They bring their schoolwork home on a digital stick and use the Internet for assigned research. Teens meets with their classmates via Skype to complete school projects because it’s more convenient than getting together face-to-face. To stay connected with their friends, our children keep their noses to the screens while texting and Facebooking. They entertain themselves online with video games, TV shows and YouTube videos. And we parents are putting the pressure on them, too. We ask our children to stay in touch with us digitally, and encourage them to distract themselves online when we want time to ourselves.
While accepting that our children’s lives will require a certain amount of screen time, we can be important advocates for off-screen activities to counter the weaknesses of a digital life. Already doctors are seeing young people showing the physical fallout from years of computer use—neck and back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, diminished hearing, effects of inadequate sleep. Drama teachers are finding that today’s students are so dependent on texting they have trouble expressing themselves when they’re asked to communicate face-to-face.
To counter the sedentary, sometimes solitary screen-based lifestyle, our teens need social, physical and tactile experiences: making music or art, dancing or drama, sports, volunteering, time in nature. If your child is resisting reduced screen time, ask him or her to propose a solution that takes into account your concerns. If she argues that she needs to be online all the time because her career will be dependent on her cyber skills, you can counter with the example of Pierce Vallieres. He’s the 14 year-old who created a Rubik’s Cube app for Apple that is generating worldwide sales. Doubtless Pierce spent hours online fine-tuning his creation, but, according to media reports, he still manages to find time to play baseball, hockey and guitar, and is learning to fly an airplane.
You’ll be strengthened in your resolve by the position of many Silicon Valley computer geeks who are sending their children to schools like Waldorf that don’t use computers. According to a recent article in The New York Times, these parents are aware that their children will need computer time to compete in the modern world but say “What’s the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills.”
We just experienced Bullying Awareness Week last week, and while I applaud the attention being paid to bullying prevention, I sure wish it was a not confined to one week or one simple school assembly saying “bullying is wrong”. That ain’t gonna cut the mustard.
To fully appreciate the complexity of the social conditions that contribute to bullying, and to tackle it head on, we have to make huge changes as a society—not only on the individual and family levels, but also at the school and community levels. In fact, all our social institutions and all our human relationships must shift their thinking to loving kindness and compassion in a new way. I recommend people check out the awesome work being done by Raffi at childhonouring.org [http://childhonouring.org/] to learn more about how to make systemic changes to humanity that will create lasting change.
I know that may leave you feeling a bit lost at what to do in the moment when your child arrives home with tear-stained eyes, so here are some immediate tips for those who must make a swift plan of action right now.
When You Learn Your Child is Being Bullied
Anti-Bullying Tactics You Can Teach Your Child
Hopefully, this will nip the attacks in the bud. It’s not the only solution, and if things continue, or worsen quickly, there are more levels of intervention to try. Bullying is so prevalent that every child should at least know these protective tactics so they feel armed to deal with problems should they arise.
Now parents—join your Parent Council and bring your own commitment to making all schools a loving, safe, inclusive environment. It’s a child’s right (both the bully and the bullied) to feel safe and loved everywhere they go.