It is hard not to think about the youth in our world lately as media streams stories of early death, heartbreaking attacks and a general loss of innocence. One article, titled "School Boards tackle Social Media Issue," brought me to write this post.
The gist of the article was, how were school authorities going to control the use of social media from spreading hurtful information. This was in light of recent gang rape photos that had gone viral. Yes, that is right photos of a girl being sexually assaulted by more then one person, had apparently spread like wild fire throughout the local community and beyond. And not only that, it was littered with comments about how the girl deserved this and other disgusting terms. As well, there had been a bullying episode, similar to a cock fight, caught on tape. A mother fearing it would go viral had destroyed the video and any chance of showing her son had indeed been attacked and forced to fight.
As shocking as these two stories are, what I find more shocking is the response of school authorities. "We need to find a way to control how kids are using these social media outlets. This is a new area for us and we just aren't sure how to police it."
Seriously, something as heart wrenching as a young girl being repeatedly sexually assaulted and boy being made to fight despite his inability to stand due to injury while an audience takes photographs and video and then takes that information and spread it around, and the conclusion is we must control social media. There are some serious issues here that exist with or without social media. And perhaps social media has brought them to our attention so we can deal with them.
I am blessed that I live with in a community of people who have made a commitment to put their relationship with their children above all else. However, that does not give me a free pass to turn a blind eye to the youth who are crying out for help. To ignore that there are sad, heartbreaking, devastating things happening to what I dare call our richest resources.
Whether you send your kids to school, school them at home or unschool that common space we share is that we are parents. We have birthed the next generation and we have the opportunity to do parent in a way that shapes a future worth living in . We can do it differently then generations before us by tossing out sayings such as, "that's just kids being kids. It will toughen up." We have the chance to make an impact.
And it doesn't come from controlling youth access to Social Media. It comes from turning that finger of blame around and pointing it at ourselves. Instead of looking to youth to see what it wrong and how we can better control them how about taking a good long look at our own core values and how we are living them.
It is super easy to say, "my family is the most important thing." To truly live that in a way that says it to not only our children but the world at large is whole different matter. If Mr/Mrs Boss person continues to dictate how we spend our time, then our children will continue to look for other places and ways to be heard, validated and understood.
If we continue to rule over youth by controlling what they can and can not do, say, access, play with they will continue to look for ways to feel in control and powerful. They will seek out ways to feel empowered and lots of times that looks like hurting someone else. Why ?? Cause they are hurting themselves.
When we hear of children taking their own lives or spreading messages of hate about through social media outlets its cause they are hurting. They have unmet needs. And when parents are too busy, stressed or simply unconnected peer groups quickly step in to take their place. Which if we lived in a world where all people were raised in unconditional love and respect it might not be such a harmful replacement. However, in this world that often replaces family value with social status things can get pretty messed up.
I am not suggesting any really radical changes to how folks are living their lives. I am just pleading with parents to take a long deep breath and on the slow exhale to truly examine how they live in relationship with their children.
It's in action like, going in to work an hour late once and a while so you can have breakfast with your child, that we say you are more important. And it's in feeling important that are children feel valued.
When we care more about what our children think of us then what the neighbors do that we show our children their opinion matters. And when their opinion matters at home, they are less likely to change their opinion in other situations.
When we sit down and watch a TV show or play a video game with our children, we show them that the things they are interested in have value. And when our children feel their interest are valued they are more likely to pursue them in in the face of external judgement.
And when we show our children unconditional love and respect we set them up to do the same for others. We give them the courage to say, "hey that's not okay with me."
When we create a home space that serves as a moral barometer for our children they are able to go out in to the world and make big decisions knowing we have trust them. They are able to tackle heart breaking situations and know we have their back. They are able to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means going against the grain.
So I say to that those poor confused School Authorities who aren't sure what to do in the face of social media, use it in a way to shows youth they truly matter.