Protecting children (and yourself)
It’s a whole new challenge now
Protecting children – it’s a natural human instinct and absolutely central to our idea of civilised human behaviour, but in the context of the social and cultural upheaval brought about by the digital age, the challenges are much greater than they have ever been in the past.
In times of great change, it is really important not to try and fly in the face of progress, but if we are to preserve a happy and healthy society, it is equally important for us to be aware of the values that must always be carried through to the future. These are the constants which can, in times of great change, be overlooked. Of all of these values, the way we are, or are not protecting children, is most important of all.
It seems to be an inevitable pattern that the older generation will always critcise the younger generation – you only have to look at Plato to realise the truth of this. But make no mistake, life is much harder for the current younger generation than it has been for a very very long time. Back in my time, things were much more certain, and children really did benefit from a greater degree of freedom. I am talking about the freedom to explore, to adventure, to climb trees, build forts and mess about – and to make mistakes. In other words, to be kids, the way it is in all of our natures to be kids.
In the ‘olden’ days, kids could choose to leave school earlier and learn about a job that interested them, while they were doing it – getting paid at the same time. Nowadays, we expect all children to tread the same weary path towards this weird vision of ‘success’; go to school till you’re a certain age, study hard to pass exams, then go to university, study hard to pass exams, then get a job to give you security against the uncertainties of old age. That’s a pretty depressing scenario when you think about it, isn’t it?
These days, we are acutely aware of the dangers perceived to be ‘out there’, so ‘protecting children’ is at the front of our minds. What it generally means in practice is stopping them from doing all of the exploring and discovering that in the past, has been so essential to growing imagination and creativity. The problem is, that in protecting children from the dangers ‘out there’, we have exposed them to potentially greater dangers ‘in here’.
As has been well documented in recent decades, the internet itself is a two-sided coin. Along with all of its educational benefits are very real dangers. One of the biggest of these, in my opinion, is what it does to children’s ability to interact socially. Instead of family fun and interaction, we now see groups of individuals in the same room, but all on their own screens, lost in their own worlds. Thus, in wrapping them up in cotton wool and protecting them from the big, bad world, we are placing them in fresh danger which threatens their very development.
Yes, I know we can’t fight progress and the digital age is here to stay. But what I am advocating, if we are truly serious about protecting children, is the need for a bit of perspective, or balance. So don’t just go along with everything, shrugging your shoulders as you see your slumped kids logging hour after hour on their screens. Do introduce a bit of structure and discipline into their downtime. Have some scheduled ‘family fun’ time. Play a board game. Go for a walk together. Play some music together, or even listen to some music together – now there’s a generational challenge!
And when you go for a holiday, have a day at least, where none of you have access to any kinds of devices. Replace this with a bit of ‘derring do’ or physical adventure, and let them feel the thrill of all that. Climb a mountain, swim a river, take a risk and let your kids test themselves. Do this, and you’ll also be protecting your children in the very best way possible, having a ball yourself, and remembering all the fun you used to have when you were young. And what you’ll possibly find even more interesting, is gauging the reaction of your children to it all, and the positive effect it has on all of the relationships in your family.
So now, as longer days and shorter nights beckon, I prescribe lots of fun time for kids and parents, really connecting with one another. Just notice how much happier and closer you become, how much richer you feel.
Go for it NOW!