By Tracy Popolizio
“I’m so glad my kids are grown. I’d hate to be raising them today.” My reply – “I know! Even though I still have teenagers at home, I’m so glad they’re not young.” It seems that being a parent to Gen Z children is like parenting children born with the plague. If there really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), why is this a common thread weaving seasoned parents together? It makes me think of the song “Kids” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Anybody remember? Ann-Margret and Dick Van Dyke? Albert and his oh-so fashionable mama perform a number that asks, “What’s the matter with kids today?” The answer? “Nothing.” This musical debuted in 1960, and I think it’s safe to say many parents are asking the same question today, almost 60 years later. So why is raising kids so much harder today?
When I spoke to several parents recently, one underlying challenge surfaced repeatedly: technology. With the increase in social media and cell phone use by kids as young as 10, it’s no wonder this has quickly reached number one as the primary obstacle when raising and communicating with young adults. Social media rears its head onto the screens of 50% of 12-year-olds. In our house, the rule is the kids have to wait until they’re 16 to get Instagram, their first and only social media platform. Needless to say, our 14-year-old son waits longingly for the day when he turns 16 (of course, according to him, the rule is still unfair). Our reply? Too bad! Unfortunately, one of the challenges we face as parents is that this is one of the current avenues of communication. Rare are the days of calling friends on the telephone, and, as my husband observed, getting together to play a video game has now transformed into chatting through the game itself. What’s the matter with kids?
While I’ll admit technology has its advantages (as an author, I can’t imagine using a typewriter instead of a computer), the disadvantages to our kiddos are far greater. Limited and awkward social interactions, increasingly shorter attention spans, and the rise in depression and anxiety are all disadvantages that I’d prefer to avoid, even if it means my children aren’t part of the popular 50%. The year my daughter received her first cell phone, we went on a family vacation just a few months after. My husband and I had been noticing a change in her behavior, and it wasn’t good. Within the first day or two of our trip, however, no cell service was available – our daughter had returned to us! I notice the same behaviors today in tweens/young teens. My son now struggles with lack-of-eye-contactitis. Just the other day we were at the doctor’s office, and I had to remind him to look at her while she asked him questions. What’s the matter with kids?
How did we get here? Who’s to blame? Parents? Millennials? Steve Jobs? Lee Byung-chul (the founder of Samsung)? Children themselves? I believe there are several factors. However, I don’t think we can discount the school systems as having a role either. I need to tell you before you rebut that I am a teacher in the public school system. That being said, I’m amazed at how often during the day my daughter texts me. School used to be a place to learn, where the primary focus was on academics. While some teachers may still have rules about putting cell phones and devices away during class, I fear they will soon be in the minority if they aren’t already.
Our country is suffocating from this technology epidemic. As a friend recently observed during her travels in Europe, teens have cell phones but they’re able to hold conversations and interact with people face to face. Specifically, she recalled walking down the street. She noticed everyone looked up as they walked, contrary to our bent-head syndrome. What are their parents doing that we’re not? So, what’s the matter with kids today? I don’t have the answers, but I do know I will continue to raise my children to the best of my ability, seeking God’s guidance and wisdom every step of the way, and limiting their use of technology while under my roof.
Looking for additional resources to help with this tough topic? Check out “Real Community in a Digital World,” by Leslie Hudson. This article was originally published by Lifeway’s “Parenting Teens Magazine” and they have kindly given us permission to share it with you. Click here to read the article for free. Click here to purchase the magazine, which includes many more excellent articles on this topic and more.
– the by design staff
Tracy Popolizio works with young children as a preschool teacher. She writes inspirational middle grade fiction, with a passion to enrapture preteens in a discovery of God’s truths between the covers of a book. She shares her passion for writing and the writing process with students of various grade levels. Tracy also speaks about her personal experiences with God and how our thought processes can lead to a victorious life. In her free time, Tracy enjoys camping, reading historical fiction, running, dancing, and taking walks with her husband, as well as spending time with her two children and four kittens. Tracy lives in Connecticut and is blessed to be close to extended family, enabling them to enjoy time together. You can read more about her teachable moments at www.whatareyouthinking247.blog.
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