August 25,2019 The Perfect Storm – Social Media
We are running into a crisis today as parents. Like the movie, “The Perfect Storm” the 1991 account of the fishing trawler “Andrea Gail” consisted of a crew of hard-working dedicated fisherman going out to find a big catch and got caught in an overwhelming storm. Weather reports revealed a tropical hurricane that came up from Bermuda which collided with a cold front from the Great Lakes, creating 100-foot waves and sinking the fishing boat resulting in a "perfect storm".
Parents today have been caught off guard with a perfect storm. In this series of articles, we will look at the crisis today in the American family and look at what needs to happen to rescue the family from the destructive patterns that we face.
Life is so busy, especially with the world of social media. Truth is life is getting busier. I remember when I was in under graduate school and was looking for a “simple course” to complete my elective course work. I found a class entitled, “Introduction to Recreation”. My thought was this would be a slam-dunk course. It was more entailed than I thought. I passed. The course was taught by Dr. Lyle Beaver a wonderful man and professor. This was before the internet phenomena really broken open. At the time computers filled massive rooms, but the dawn of the personal computers was coming and Dr. Beaver understood this. His mindset at the time was when the computer age hits, people will have so much free time because computers would do the work for us and so we needed to understand the importance of recreation. I believe he was a family man because he always emphasized how great the future would be for family relationships and the freedom we would have to be families.
In 1981 the IBM PC came into existence and the computer generation came to life. It was immediately successful. Time magazine called 1982 “The Year of the Computer” as the industry grew. By 1983, the industry estimated that 10 million PC’s were in use in the United States alone.
The personal computer culture has become so successful we have run into a problem. According to Ed Grabianowski, contributing writer at, How Stuff Works, (https://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/computer-addiction.htm) “As years have gone by we have reached a point to where we are obsessively checking e-mail. Playing online games for 12 hours or more at a time. Placing more value on chat-room friends than real friends. Neglecting family, work and even personal health and hygiene. These are all symptoms of a new form of addiction that has surfaced only in recent years: computer addiction.”
Dr. Beaver’s vision for a useful tool to help families have more time together has been devastating to the American family. I talk to young men today who struggle with pornography addiction that started when they were 12 or 13 years old. Innocently surfing the web, they came onto that first porn site and the addiction grew from there. Cyber Bullying continues to grow. Cyber bullies are as young as 7 and 8 years old and the victim of cyber bulling range in age. In 2018, Focus on the Family report that as many of 22% of school age kids are being bullied and from my work, online bullying is growing by leaps and bounds.
Adult also have a problem with the internet and social media today. Since social media has erupted from the 80’s, adults are finding themselves addicted, much like our kids and the problem continues to grow. There is a Perfect Storm that is rising up in families today. It’s a well-known fact that the internet usage today for kids and teens has gone way beyond what it should be. According to Psychology Today (March 2017) “A tween's underdeveloped frontal cortex can’t manage the distraction nor the temptations that come with social media use. While you start teaching responsible use of tech now, know that you will not be able to teach the maturity that social media requires. Like trying to make clothes fit that are way too big, they will use social media inappropriately until they are older and it fits them better.” Young boys getting into porn is a perfect example; their brains are not equipped to handle the input.
Not only are kids and teens addicted to social media, parents are also. We talk about kids not being online so much and wanting them to go “outside and play”. As adults, we need to go outside and play. Children are little video cams recording everything they see you do and get angry when you say one thing and do another thing. When you get home from work at night and just want some “screen time” to chill out, your children are watching you and get angry when you tell them one thing and you do something different.
As parents we live on our cell phones. I hear parents say my phone is my lifeline. Guess what I hear children and teens say? “My phone is my lifeline”. We focus on our cell phone and not our family. We can say I will just be on a couple of minutes and before we know it an hour has gone by. An alcoholic will say I can handle just one or two drinks and before you know it, they are wasted. Not much difference. In Twelve Step programs they expound the twelve steps to recovery. The first step is to acknowledge “we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable”. We focus on our social media and not our kids. Your children need your time and a relationship with you. By the way, in one of my previous articles I mentioned that if you don’t have time for your kids, there are plenty of people out there who do. They might be predators, bullies, or adults just looking for young souls to corrupt. What about you? It’s important that you answer the question.
Has your life become unmanageable?
Are you are not getting things accomplished that you know need to be done?
Are you getting in trouble at work or at school due to time on social media?
If you find that your compulsive attachment to social media interferes with other aspects of your life, you need to reevaluate your usage. Maybe you are getting in trouble at work because you can’t stay off your favorite sites and you don’t get your work done? Maybe your relationships within your family are deteriorating because you spend too much time online? These are signs that you have a problem.
How does this affect children? Studies show that parents who are constantly checking their phones for texts, email, and social media updates are more likely to have kids who misbehave than people who are able to step away from their screens. Yes, parent’s social media addictions can influence your child's behavior in a negative way and cause parenting problems. Kids need their parent's attention and will misbehave to get it, if needed. Many times, the temper tantrums, whining or hyperactivity is a child trying to get their parent to look at them rather than their cell phone.
Set aside phones and tablets during meal time. In a 2018 survey, 48% of parents reported technology interruptions at least 3 times a day. Meal time is a key time when parents have the opportunity to connect with their kids and engage in conversation. Theodore Roosevelt’s quote “no body cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Let’s adapt that for the family “kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.
Since this is not an article on preventing cyber bullying or young boys on porn sites, I encourage you
as a parent to be aware of what is taking place with your kids on the internet today. My workshop “I’m the Parent” focuses on things we need to do to be healthy parents so our children can be successful. My favorite quote by Dr Karyn Purvis reminds us, “in order to lead your child to a place of healing, you must know the way there yourself”. Let’s talk!