What is Affecting Our Children? Trends: Outside versus Inside Influences
When we began this blog last spring, we started by discussing what is affecting our children. We have been visiting this through nutrition for the last few months and I wanted to expand the discussion to include other influences such as: TV & other media, safety, school measurements, scheduled activities, spending time in nature, personal & household responsibilities, toxins in the environment, vaccinations and even our expectations for our children.
We will delve into each of these categories over the next few months, but I want to begin the discussion by talking about our expectations for our children and what I see as a trend of outside forces versus inside influences.
There is pressure coming from all sides for children in today’s media and information-saturated world. Children will sift through more material and information in one year than we have in our lifetime to date. Additionally, children are involved in more electronic media such as; television, electronic books and periodicals, internet research and play, video games, text messaging, and social media with increasing exposure as they age and as it becomes more readily available. This media allows others to target our children with messaging, marketing or advertising to be a certain way or to buy a particular item.
Additionally, the safety of our children is paramount. A parent has to spend no more than a minute watching the news either on television or online to see a segment on gun control or an amber alert or child abuse to know that we have to be vigilant crusaders of our children’s safety.
Regarding schools, public schools are exerting more pressure on children with standardized tests and measurements to ensure they have the funding from the state and federal governments. Private schools and higher education are putting more pressure on children to excel as the United States slips further and further behind on the academic world stage. Even the employment situation in the US pressures children to perform at a college graduate or post graduate levels as more and more manufacturing jobs are moved overseas. Given the cost of college today, families must feel the pressure for children to excel in order for them to graduate and get a good paying job to justify or cover the cost of college.
What about the other categories such as: scheduled activities, spending time in nature, and personal and household responsibilities?
Each of these plays a part in the trend of outside forces versus internal influences. As we schedule activities for our children that may be missing or too light in their everyday curriculum at school, we are taking away from free or family time. We may even be keeping them indoors learning or practicing these activities so as to take away time spent in nature. What about personal and household responsibilities? From what I observe, these are relatively non-existent.
What is the impact of all of these outside pressures? We, as parents no matter how vigilant, bend to these pressures too. We may lighten the household chore responsibility, schedule an additional activity because ‘my friend Johnny is doing it’, cave to the cell phone request onslaught, allow slightly more computer, video game or television time, lose a firm handle on the social media controls, spend more time indoors helping with the increasing level of homework versus outdoors in nature, give up on nightly dinners together due to sports schedules, or be hyper vigilant over safety while the children play out of doors. This is all normal. We are human and a firm line in every category is impossible to hold forever.
Our jobs as parents have trends too and these involve increasingly going against the norm. We are to allow our children to play outdoors ‘until the street lights come on’, have copious amounts of free time (what about all of that homework?), ignore the pleas for internet, television, video game and cell phone time completely and consistently, and let’s not forget to eat local, organic, homemade food for every meal.
So, what are we to do? We are to protect our children certainly, but not to the complete exclusion of society. One can only dance on the fringes for so long. The way I see it, our job as parents is to recognize all of these pressures, empathize and help our children navigate through them as gracefully and nimbly as possible. Also, communities like this will help. We can discuss each category and get ideas from each other. It takes a village, now more so than ever.
It is a fine line to walk in this technology age. Kudos to all parents walking that line.
When I struggle with a decision, I sometimes explain my struggle to my older child (he’s now 10) and he understands and helps me make the right decision – even if it’s against what he wanted. Walking the fine line is easier when we walk together. It is also easier when we explain our reasons because they learn from these. What you have shared here is truly a struggle for all of us raising children in this hyper-connected and overburdened age. You’ve said it so well.