It is the scariest thing that any parent would want to hear about, but the recent Momo Suicide Challenge scare, has agitated parents to, even if just temporarily, wake up and think about what is seeping through to their children through the internet.
Most parents are oblivious of what their children do with their smart phones. I have heard this line so frequently, that I am completely lost for words: “My kid will throw a tantrum if I take away his/her phone”. At a restaurant recently, I witnessed a girl aged about 10 or so, with her head covered under her sweater as she did whatever it was, with her smart phone. Sad thing was that none of the 3 adults with her noticed that as something unusual. To me, that kind of parenting is more dangerous than the internet itself. That is negligence.
Perhaps it is because I belong to the old school, but it totally blows my mind to think that our children have taken us captives, and we behave like we are totally helpless, as if saying no to a child will kill him/her. Children have a way of trying us out to see how far they can get. Please do not take me wrong, I know and understand very well that this is a different age and children have their rights, but there are also checks and balances; there is a reason why we are parents, and they are children. It is also important to remember that we are co-creators with God. Children are his gifts to us, and he entrusts us with the responsibility of protecting them and bringing them up to be whole human beings.
We have taken a smart invention – the smart phone – and turned it into a super drug on which we have addicted our children, in the name of entertainment and keeping them occupied, while at the same time, we blame our inability to take charge over this situation, on anything – the school system, peers, lack of time, work, it calms them down, and so on. Someone once said of this phenomenon: “It is like taking a machine gun and giving it to your child, then turning your back and pretending that your child is old and wise enough to understand how to handle the gun”. Apart from that, there is enough research that shows that very early exposure of smart phones to young children inhibits their cognitive abilities, especially if they spend long amounts of time on it.
Like all of us, our children yearn to belong, need to be loved, and to be listened to. Because we are too busy, we have blocked them out, and so they will reach out for help where we have shown them – the smart phone. That is how they get to the suicide-inclined chat rooms or groups, and it is also how the perverts that are pedophiles have harmed our children. Reaching out to people outside the home could be a sign that something serious like bullying or even depression, (both of which at times are accompanied by suicidal tendencies), is going on in the child’s life. It is a red flag our children desperately wave, but we are too involved elsewhere to pay it any attention.
Since every case is unique, we will need to find out what works best for our situation. To start off, it would be good to purposely get involved in our children’s lives by communicating; know their friends and the websites they visit. Get proactive, even if it means learning about cyber security. Create quality family time, maybe one or two hours a week to begin with, where all the family can cook and eat together at home, or do other activity together as a family. This can be a good time to listen to your children’s concerns, which they can write beforehand. Engage them by giving incentives if they do house chores. Enroll them in extracurricular activities like music or other social activities. Find out from other parents, schools or churches, what activities are available. Team up with other parents to see if you all can agree on providing rotational collective babysitting among the parents, or with a responsible adult. The aim is to occupy your children away from the internet as much as possible, when you are not available to monitor them. This gives them time to be kids and play. When out of ideas, praying for wisdom always works. Showing them that you are available for them and are interested in their lives may create a whole new positive shift.
If you are able to set aside 2 hours to sit down in a salon to do nails or hair, or go out with friends for coffee or a drink, I believe family is far much more important. Remember, it is just a matter of time, and before you know it your children will be all grown and gone. I think a good question to ask is: “How well have I prepared my children to go out and face the world”? It is a good thing to rest in the assurance that when all is said and done, we have done all in our ability to be able to comfortably say: “I know my children will be OK when I am gone”, even though we may not leave them any monetary inheritance, but while they were in our hands, we enriched them with life principles that will uphold them in the tumults of this world, and that they can pass on to the coming generations.
Finally, remember taking care of our children is part of taking care of this universe, because we are all one.
It is still a beautiful world, be cheerful, strive to be happy.
By: Susan Wambui.
Senior Columnist Kenyan Parents in USA