It’s fun. It’s hip. It’s the best way to keep tabs on your children.
It’s fun. It’s hip. It’s the best way to keep tabs on your children.
“The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.”
– UNICEF’s report Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries (pdf)
One day after complaining that modern society is hurting the parent-child relationship, UNICEF comes out with the report mentioned above, though it’s taken me a week to finish this post. Out of industrialized nations, UNICEF deems Britain the worst place for kids to grow up, but the United States places second worst. The best place for kids to grow up overall is the Netherlands.
About 42 percent of Internet users from ages 10 to 17 say they’ve viewed porn in the last year, reports The Associated Press via The Hartford Courant. Of those kids, 66 percent said they had not sought out the images. And about 16 percent of kids 10- to 11-years-old were exposed to porn against their will, according to the survey. Keep in mind that the porn threshold used by the study is fairly low: a naked body.
But there is no question that children are exposed to unacceptable images and videos. The problem is blamed on a variety of factors: kids, many technically more capable than their parents, employ tools such as file sharing, chat and online games. And of course there are sites such as MySpace and Flickr, where monitoring against porn can be difficult.
But a number of respondents say that an ordinary web search can result in porn popping onto their screens. If that is happening, it is highly likely that these computers are teeming with spyware. (I wrote this article (doc) for the Los Angeles Times a few years ago to explain spyware.)
Rather than pontificate about how parents should do this or that, I’m just going to offer suggestions on the jump on how to keep your children safe from pornography if it is important to you:
Have you ever heard of Freak dancing? According to descriptions in the media, it’s a form of extreme dancing that involves sexual bumping, grinding and teasing that would make a harlot blush.
Many principals are clearly unhappy with the practice, reports The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times wrote about the issue a few months ago.
Every generation of kids comes up with a new form of dance, though Freaking seems to be particularly pornographic with “girls playing out, or being forced to play out, sexually submissive roles,” principal James Chupaila Tells the Times.
Here’s a description of the dance from Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop:
It’s a representation of anal sex set to hip-hop music. The boy makes thrusting moves at his partner’s rear. Sometimes the girl hikes up her skirt to facilitate contact. And if she’s feeling athletic, she may assume the doggy-style sexual position, bending over and putting her hands on the floor. One variation has two males surrounding a female and rubbing at her front and back. Other names for this dance are “grinding,” “the nasty” or just “freaking.”
To a large degree, the kids are emulating what they see in music videos, the Times reports. As someone who watches little TV and hasn’t been to a high school dance in 25+ years, it’s hard to tell how much this debate is hyperbole versus a real problem.
Lyrics of popular songs lead me to believe that women – worse girls – are being increasingly objectified as sexual objects by modern music. Last week when I accidentally turned on a hip hop song, my wife nearly blew a gasket over the foul and dehumanizing lyrics. I have no idea who the artist was.
I tried to find examples of the dance on YouTube, but most clips were short and not relevant to the debate. I did find a KTLA-TV news clip on the issue, which shows a little of the dancing style.
For the moment, it looks like this whole debate is based on anecdotal evidence, which I’ve found very few examples of. So, I’m very much interested in hearing from parents who have seen these dances. What do you think? Just how graphic are these dances? Should they be stopped, at least in the public school setting? Are the dances so demeaning you would pull your kids out?
Does your child spend an inordinate amount of time with his/her cell phone? If so, maybe the kid is depressed, a recent South Korean study found.
The top one-third users of cell phones at a South Korean High School were more likely to be unhappy or bored, reports the Los Angeles Times on the study. Those in the top one-third are defined as using their phones more than 90 times a day, including text messaging.
Apparently, many teenagers extend their personalities to the phone, researchers found. “They are portals for being in touch with other people — extensions of themselves,” Christina Wasson, a University of North Texas anthropologist who has studied cell phone use, tells the Times.
Here’s what James Katz, a professor of communications at Rutgers University had to say about teen phone usage:
A central concern for teenagers is being in touch with friends and drawing boundaries about who’s in and who’s out. People who are anxious and depressed are concerned about whether they are in or out and naturally often look at their cell phones to see if they’ve gotten answers to the text messages they sent out.
In case you’re wondering, two of every five youth – ages 8 to 18 – already have a cell phone, reports the Times. Most of these kids spend about an hour a day using them.
I consider my Blackberry very necessary for my career, but something of an annoyance. I spend little time talking on it, but I use the e-mail function functionality constantly when I’m away from my desk. Unfortunately, I’m on call 24-7.
I can’t help wonder how cell phones would have affected me when I was a loner teenager? Would it have been a good thing or a bad? It’s hard to say. I also wonder what impact all this phone time has on kids studies – are they a positive or negative force? I have few examples because my kids are so young.
I think it was high school history. Or maybe junior high English. I don’t exactly recall the specifics but I do remember falling asleep in one of those classes. When I woke up, the next class had settled in around me and the teacher had begun lecturing.
It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened. The class seemed as surprised as I was embarrassed when I got up to leave the room. I even had to explain to the teacher I didn’t belong in that class.
I’ve always been a good sleeper, but during my adolescent years I was proficient. I usually slept a good 10 hours at home and would still get drowsy toward the mid-afternoon in junior high, high school and college.
I learned to plan my day such that I would always get enough sleep. After a mandatory 8 a.m. class in my first semester in college, all subsequent “first”classes were scheduled after 10 a.m.
Part of the problem: I was a night person, but this worked for me because I also was a journalist who usually worked the night shift.
Here are some highlights from the study:
The risks of not getting enough sleep include susceptibility to illness, depression, poor learning retention and my personal bugaboo, crankiness.
Not surprisingly, electronic devices are suspected to be a major cause of sleeplessness. Here’s what adolescents have in their rooms:
I could spend days breaking down this study. For example, there seems to be little correlation between obesity and sleep, but youngsters who work clearly are less likely to get enough sleep.
Other quick nuggets:
Now that I’m in my 40s with young kids, I’m a morning person. I rise between 5 and 6:30 a.m. depending on how many times they wake me up. To be honest, I get through the day much better now than when I was a night person. The only drawback is that as 9 p.m. approaches, I want to get to sleep in the worst way. Now, if I can just get those kids to sleep through the night….
Public opinion polls consistently show a strong, bi-partisan consensus on the need to invest in our kids. Yet even as Americans demand a greater focus on children, public investments are shifting away from them.
– Children Now 2005 California Report Card
When I was a young teen, my mom and I drove through one of the poorest parts of Chicago. I don’t remember the exact reason for the trip, but it became a lesson about fear and empathy.
Seeing the abject poverty firsthand, I had empathy for those who lived there. But because the very neighborhood we drove though had a horrific murder rate, we locked the doors and drove through as quickly as possible.
Decades later, I often find myself driving down surface streets of Los Angeles to get around some horrible traffic jam caused by a jack-knifed truck or overturned tricked up Honda Civic. Most of these neighborhoods seem fine during the day but reportedly can be dangerous at night.
But I am just struck by how many children and teens live in these “bad” neighborhoods. I use quotes, because this is how most of us describe poor parts of the city.
When we talk about how children are faring in today’s America, we’re invariably talking about kids who live in “bad” neighborhoods. We tend to forget that children from this part of our society constitute the largest portion of the population in the United States.
What distinguishes a city like Los Angeles from one like Madison, WI, is sheer size. In other words, it’s a lot tougher to hide the poor in Southern California.
Children Now’s annual Report Card (pdf) reveals a lot about the children the upper middle class hardly ever sees, but is aware of on the periphery.
Here’s the Report Card in a nutshell:
While none of the grades are great, the three Ds pose the most immediate threat to the well-being of our children. None of these issues are new to DadTalk, but Children Now provides some chilling statistics, which I go into more detail below.
Should government regulate parenting? Edinburgh, Scotland, is going to try, reports the Scotsman.
Laws that kick in Spring 2006 will hold parents responsible for antisocial youths. These parents, who have drinking, drug abuse or discipline issues, will be forced to go to classes, rehab or counseling.
Parents also will have to walk their troublesome children to and from school. If parents fail to follow the orders, they will be fined about $1,770. If children fail to reform after following court instructions, however, the parents are off the hook.
I suppose with American’s strong Libertarian values, such laws would never get passed in the states or survive a Constitutional challenge, but it will be interesting to see if Edinburgh’s plan succeeds or fails.
A mother of two in Bury, England, was electronically tagged for failing to get her truant teen daughters to attend school.
It’s called the “choking game.” Via a rope, belt or even hands around the neck, children cut off the flow of blood to their brains, nearly pass out and then enjoy the “rush” that follows – if the game itself doesn’t kill them.
Recently, it killed a 14-year-old Jewish girl in one of the wealthier Los Angeles suburbs, reports the Los Angeles Times. The choking game seems to be a variation of autoerotic self-asphyxiation that men used to heighten sexual sensation.
In this case, bored and/or lonely kids are just seeking a drug-free rush. Armed with cell phones, cars, money and freedom, many of these good, hard-working kids apparently are missing something in their lives.
I’m not going to repeat the whole Times story, but if you are a parent, read it in the next few days before it expires. Understand that these parents love their kids and do their best. But also understand that many kids today are very troubled.
I’ve long held that our hard-driving, overworked parents, and technology-obsessed society is at the root of these problems. How do parents monitor their children if both must work late into the night? How many parents, just to afford the basics, must work late into the night rather than being home in time to take care of their kids?
I know it’s a big problem for us. Because of traffic, I rarely get home before 7:30 p.m. And because of financial pressures, my wife may have to go back to work within a couple years. Otherwise, we won’t be able to help our kids with college, and we won’t have enough money to retire on.
But kids don’t care what our problems are. By their very nature, children are the most narcissist people on the planet. They are all about need.
Do you have doubts that children today are struggling? More than 3 million kids visited doctors complaining of depression from 2001-2002, up from 1.44 million in 1995-1996, reports MedPageToday.com on a new Stanford study. While most of these kids are not diagnosed with depression, there is clearly something wrong in their lives.
And how do we treat most of these kids? With drugs. We don’t look for the underlying problems anymore, we just drug them. Often, these poisons are given to kids for purposes for which they were not approved.
The use of antidepressants in kids jumped 2.6 times from 1995 to 2002, the study found. Meanwhile, counseling decreased as drug use rose.
While the choking game is one of the more extreme examples of what is happening to our kids today, there are plenty of other clues ranging from smoking pot to attempted suicide that reveal underlying problems.
I’ve noticed many adults and kids are quick to blame parents, but the problem is far more complicated. We have a tendency in this country to underestimate the impact societal pressures have on our children. Thirty years ago, there really wasn’t anything bad on TV. Commercials had a kind of innocent quality to them. Cell phones weren’t ubiquitous, nor were porn-filled Internet browsers.
While it may be easy for an aging parent to learn about technology, it’s quite another thing to keep up with the social ramifications these technologies have on our society and children. A larger conversation is needed to discuss what our changing society is doing to us and our kids. Otherwise, our children will be the continuing subjects in a societal experiment that no one is able or willing to control.
When dads disappear from the family scene, bad things happen. In New York, teens rove the street like characters out of the “Lord of the Flies,” writes Bob Herbert for The New York Times.
Herbert is responding to a group of teenagers who killed another teenager – and beat his friends – for an iPod on a busy street. Herbert writes:
There are plenty of youngsters who grow up fine without a father in the home. But that’s not a good argument in favor of fatherlessness. Most of the youngsters getting into trouble and preying on others come from fatherless homes.
Here’s why, according to Herbert:
Kids who grow up without a father never experience that special sense of security and the enhanced feeling of belonging that come from having a father in the home. So they seek it elsewhere.
This phenomenon is not limited to big-city life. Most of us know a wild teenager or two down the street. Sometimes we can directly connect that behavior to a missing parent.
Sums up Herbert:
I don’t have the statistics to prove it, but black kids would be tremendously better off if the cultural winds changed and more fathers felt the need to come home.
For me, it’s an easy call: Moms are crucial. Dads, too.
Postscript: Sometimes, troubled dads should disappear. I just discovered this story in the Los Angeles Times where a father used his 17-month-old baby as a shield in a shootout with police. The baby and shooter were killed.