Do you ever wonder whether technology is hampering your children socially—or in other ways? Today’s kids spend so much time with phones and tablets, computer screens and video games that many of them aren’t learning how to hold a normal conversation or relate to people.
Dr. Jim Taylor, writing for Psychology Today, brings up two important character qualities that kids might be missing out on: selflessness and empathy.
Selflessness, of course, is about being humble and compassionate and placing the needs of others ahead of our own. Empathy is looking at the world from someone else’s perspective, being sensitive to what they are thinking and feeling. Coming alongside and sharing their burdens.
Both qualities help kids build trust and relate to people in healthy ways.
Much of the popular media these days elevates self above others and encourages more disregard of others compared to past generations. This spirit of indifference or callousness shows up in bullying and cyberbullying, video game violence and social media, where people can get away with typing or saying things online that they would never speak to a person face-to-face.
We could also say that simply the time kids spend with media is robbing them of opportunities to witness and practice more relational habits.
As fathers, where should we go with this? Different families may set different places when it comes to screen time and ratings on video games and all of that. But we all should be intentional about setting limits and coming up with a plan for alternate activities.
This is one of those 21st-century challenges we didn’t experience as kids. Today’s fathers need to be even more vigilant and aware. We should be monitoring how our kids are developing intellectually and socially, and have the courage to make changes in some of the rules at home, even if it’s unpopular.
On the positive side, we can establish situations where our children can relate to people without any electronics—or where they can watch and hear how we interact. If they are young, we can keep them around for some of the time when we’re talking with other adults. Older kids can go for a longer time.
The culture will go where it’s going to go, and it will influence our families in some ways, great or small. As dads, we have to be plugged in and watching what is happening to those we love. Sometimes there will be positive skills, lessons or character traits our kids gain from that influence, and sometimes we’ll see a need to protect them from something potentially dangerous to them, and possibly help them find better ways to use their time.
It’s all part of the never-ending job of training our children to be selfless, empathetic people of high character who are equipped to go out and make the world a better place.
How have you handled screens, media and gaming at your house? Share your questions, tips and experiences on our Facebook page.