Beyond their level of development and maturity, kids are becoming preoccupied and exposed to far too much content than they can handle.
Childhood is becoming overwhelming.
What’s behind this?
It’s pretty clear.
Most of the kids I talk to have pretty unlimited access to Youtube. From what I can tell, it’s one of their “go to” screen spots where they get a great deal of “content.”
Take Blake, a bright 10 year old, who is preoccupied with Youtube, going down endless rabbit holes, following his interests on anything that catches his attention.
As reported to me recently, Blake found himself watching a “comedian” who sings some type of song that focuses on suicide as a theme, somehow done comically. (I’m sure it’s a laugh a minute.)
The problem is Blake is set off by the comedian’s song and starts to look at other Youtube videos on the topic and then he starts to wonder about the idea of suicide until he has worked himself into a full-blown lather of anxiety.
It wasn’t that Blake felt suicidal, but the topic captivated him to the point of preoccupation.
Sure, I could try and help Blake understand how his thoughts (cognitions) impact his moods and emotions and all of the ways that psychologists try and help kids deal with their emotions.
But, that’s not what I am thinking.
I am thinking about the state of childhood.
I am thinking Blake is 10. When I was 10 I don’t remember thinking about suicide as a topic. For me, I was preoccupied with whether Batman was more powerful than Superman (in the comic books, I might add). When not worrying about that we were playing a bunch of games outdoors, joyously free of any adult involvement. (In fact, whole weekends would go by without adults telling us what to do at all or watching us play our games.)
I know. I know. I can hear all of the critics now. “Well, Richard, your childhood was just once removed from when Abe Lincoln was president. Get over it. Times have changed.”
Look, I know times have changed. I have my own screen problems. In fact, as I write this on my lap top, the phone is close by like a pathetic security blanket, while the iPad is synching to my blue tooth speaker, keeping me maximally stimulated.
However, I am an adult.
While all of this technological content may be distracting and is probably not serving me well, I can handle it (mostly). If I watch a video on Youtube with questionable or disturbing content, it doesn’t result in a downward psychological spiral.
In contrast, I’m not so sure kids have the psychological reserve in their tank to handle the content they have ready access to.
We need to wake up.
I am concerned that childhood is being drained from them as we stand by helplessly, while our kids swipe and swipe on the iPads they got for Christmas or their fifth birthday.
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So well written. I laughed and cried! Thank you Dr. Selznick!
Thank you, so much, Sonia.
I completely agree with you. Spending time with my grandchildren, age nine, six, and four, gives me daily reminders as to how little experience they have in this world. Scary unhealthy stories would feed their fear-imagination. They need to see and hear stories that can build their optimism, not their fears. I’m thinking when a child is old enough to need a phone to call home or contact friends, it would be best to get a phone that’s not connected to the Internet.
Jeanne. Thanks for the comment…we are ever on the same page.
I totally agree with you. Even here in Vietnam in the local town some of the local kids have iPhones and ipads and appear to spend a lot of their non school time on them. In tourist restaurants the tourist children are on devices too.
In the countryside though, they are children, doing what children used to do when I was a kid 60 years ago – skipping, playing hopscotch, riding bikes, rolling old wheels along the lane, looking for fish in the rice fields, pulling legs of crickets, taking lizards for walks on a lead.
The two people children emulate because of love and adoration are their ever present parents. What they do they want to do too. I loved cooking and cleaning the house as that is what my mother did. I loved trying to make things with wood as that is what my dad did in his free time. Parents don’t have to succumb to the norm and do what everyone else does, they can choose how they bring up their children, what they can do and what they can’t do. Children become adults so quickly and they can then choose to use social media when they have more life experience and wisdom and discrimination.
But some parents need to reflect on what example they are to their children. Are they spending their free time on the phone or are they in the garden, planting, weeding, or doing some craftwork, or some cooking, baking, reading a book, reading the newspaper, doing crosswords or jigsaws, building go carts, a tree house, a dolls house? Are the children included in their activity or excluded?
I see children here leading lives children used to live. I see western children living the life of a child I recall. Many families have come to Vietnam as they want their children to live a simple life, one in nature in an unpolluted environment. That choice is possible in the States or anywhere. It’s a choice.
Thanks for the great comment. So interesting to hear the perspective from another corner of the universe – sounds pretty idyllic, I must admit.
Hope you are well.
Great post, as usual, Dr. Selznick. I worry about this, too.
It’s the truth. The “rabbit hole” of YouTube is corroding their young minds. It’s so sad that our children are watching other children play with toys that they themselves have. I could go on for hours about the effects of this iPod generation. It’s nothing short of scary
Thanks, Sue. Appreciate the comment.