“Social pedia?…oh, wait, I mean social media!”
As I was in a meeting with my friend, Chris, he was referring to our outreach in Everyday Exiles and mistakenly mentioned this word that I’m not sure if anyone has coined yet. But let me take liberty with it as a theme that’s heavy on my heart.
Our children, the social beings that they were created to be, are forming identity at breakneck speed. Their little minds (yet with much greater capacity than we can imagine) were meant to grow and absorb information on a steady, safe, clear stream. They are wired to take in and process incoming information, to be able to decide what is true and what is false and to filter out what is damaging, with the help of the safe adults around them.
I’m gonna say this from the stance of a mom, grandmom, aunt, and general observer of human behavior, though I am not a professional concerning the cognitive development of a child’s brain. I’ve been around the Sesame Street learning style for quite a few decades now, along with Reading Rainbow and Barney. I’ve watched episodes of Peppa Pig and Daniel Tiger and Teletubbies, along with SpongeBob SquarePants, Zoom, and Paw Patrol. For the most part, these seem to be fairly harmless (not so sure about SpongeBob!) and maybe even educational and calming at times while dinner is being prepared or mom/dad just need a break. But I’m wondering how we got from these to a constant stream of digital information flowing over a child’s frontal cortex via Smartphones, Notebooks, or Tablets. Although there seems to be some concern regarding potential vision issues in children resulting from too much screen time, my concern is more of the content.
With or without filters, we cannot be fully assured that questionable content will not sink into our children’s minds and souls, whether overtly or subliminally. Hours of viewing what the screen has to offer might be quieting your child externally, but what could be happening internally in their brain function…their emotional development…or their souls?
I will include later on (rather than quote it, you can read the whole article if you feel so led) an article from Pediatrics and Health, Vol. 2, Issue 8 that details the effects of too much screen time. But for my purposes here, I want to talk about the social implications, along with the soulish implications and parental responsibility.
Face to face, real time, with healthy touch is God’s best for the development of your child’s mind and sense of value. As parents, we are called to be the source caregivers for our children, and that includes protecting them from harmful stimuli. Your children learn not only from the words you tell them, but from your mannerisms, your facial expression, and your voice-tone. You are the one who calls out the reality of who they are, who God is, and why they have purpose, specific design, and a God-given destiny. But what I typically see in social media and the current screen time spent with children are inappropriate, irresponsible, and downright disrespectable messages. And as much as they (like we) have to wade through the realities of this imperfect world in order to call out to the Perfect, I don’t believe the developing mind of a child can filter out what is toxic waste to the mind. That needs to be taught by parents using words and deep emotional connection. Oh, how I miss Mr. Rogers!
God taught us through His Word. He teaches us through the reality of His love. He is pointed and true. He is not confusing or ludicrous. Think about what is getting absorbed into our children’s brains and how much of it will be stored in there and what messages they are taking in as truth. Then think about how much pure Truth is being absorbed by them on a daily basis as compared to the garbage.
So next time you hand over your device to that toddler, please be diligently aware of the content of what they’re viewing. Watch what they’re watching and evaluate if this is healthy, true, educational, encouraging or if it’s bending their brains toward impulsivity, rudeness, silliness, or if it’s purely a waste of time. Your child will emulate what they’re being most exposed to. If you want them to be socially healthy, then exemplify healthy social behavior and don’t allow the devices to teach them what the human spirit alone can teach.
(For further reading, I thought this article was informative: https://academic.oup.com/pch/article/22/8/461/4392451 )