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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