And about those violent kids…

kid for blogSince I retired and since my offspring grew up I don’t have much contact with children. There are times I miss it, but after a long, time consuming career with children, most of the time I don’t even have room in my brain for all the blog posts and articles and photos. “That’s nice,” my brain says with a bit of residual interest and moves on.

But there are two things that have been bothering me lately and making me think about kids again.

The first is a car advertisement and the second is the latest mass shooting.

The car advertisement compares two SUV type vehicles. Both have Mom and Dad in front and both have two daughters in the rear (all snugly enclosed in the latest mega car seat apparatus). One shows the two girls plugged in, complete with headphones and tablets, totally focused on their laps, with a brief glance at each other to hold up the tablet and show something. They don’t talk. They don’t look at anything other than the tablets. They don’t hear anything other than what is being pumped into their brain through the headphones. Mom glows and says to Dad “I don’t think our children have ever been so quiet.” This is the car you are “supposed” to want.

The second vehicle also has two girls in the back. These two are laughing and chanting and clamoring for chocolate chips. The younger makes up a jingle about jumping on a chocolate chip trampoline. They are wiggling in the seats, but not unbuckling or climbing out the windows. The whole scene makes me smile.

Sorry, Chevy. But I want my kids to laugh and look out the windows and be creative. No contest here. You have it all wrong and I scold you for making parents believe that children should be “seen and not heard.” It is a terrible idea to plug your children into devices so that you can have a quiet ride. Bad, bad, bad.

The second mind bender is in all the coverage of the latest young man to take one of his many guns and shoot up a bunch of people there is NO (at least none I saw or heard, and I looked) referral to the fact that for the last fifteen years, or longer, we have systematically trained our children that shooting things is okay. I’m talking about the hours and hours that many kids, mostly male, spend on video games. The trend toward more violent, more realistic, more interactive has grown. I think a bit of research would show that most, if not all, of the shooters have spent time from an early age in training for a mass murder.

Think about it – how do you build a habit? Increase a skill? By practicing. Then think about how hard it is to BREAK a habit. Eating chocolate, smoking, even biting your nails. Why doesn’t anyone see the huge damage we do by putting very young children, (it used to be five years old, now I think it’s two) in front of “shoot em up” games? We have systematically built the habit that says, neurotically and physically, “It is okay, even fun and entertaining, to shoot things. Or bomb things. Or explode things.” And in these games it is not very clear who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.

Someone with strong moral ethics can make the distinction between game and real life. But put a human under stress and even the smartest, strongest personality can break. And when it breaks it will gravitate, quickly, to those trained habits. And if you think you are monitoring your child’s exposure, look again. What happens when you are not home? When they are at a friends house? Even in the school yard, now that personal phones are the norm.

I won’t comment on gun control, there is enough about that going on.

But I will comment on video game control. And television control. And social media control. Not that I want these things under any sort of government sanction, but that PARENTS and SOCIETY need to recognize the long term impact of building the violent shoot ’em up, blame other people, and craving for fame habits. We need to stop bombarding our children with these things each and every day.

So please. Please, please, please. Unplug your children. Play with your children. Pay attention to your children. Because what you do matters.  (Photos by Ryan McGuire)

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