Friday, October 22, 2010

What are we teaching our children?

The President of the United States gave a speech this week. A speech about bullying. He's very sensitive, this President, to small issues that plague the country. It was a nice speech, and I liked the part where he said, "It gets better."

 It was well said. It DOES get better. As a former victim of bullying, I can say that with the utmost assurance. One day, you wake up, an adult, not really ready to face the world, and you learn to tease back. I have to say, with all my challenges, killing myself never really crossed my mind. I will not pretend to know the heartache that these kids went through in their final hours, because my bullying had an off switch.

 I went home. Yes, in some cases, that was a technicolor land of badness, but there was no internet, no cell phones, no instant messaging, one phone in the middle of the house that I wasn't really allowed to use. I was allowed one television show a day, and that was, drum roll please, the Patty Duke show. In other words, my house was like a fortress against all things school. No bullies got in, (thank goodness, because one of them was a teacher) and I had sixteen hours a day to regroup. (and often, in my young mind, to plan the social demise of whatever evil monster child had tormented me earlier in the day.)

 There were no Hannah Montanahs, no iCarlys, no Sonny with a Chances. Lyndsey Lohan wasn't a victim of Mean Girls yet.

 Fast forward twenty years, and chances are, your child's favorite character,  no matter the age group, is a sarcastic little brat. Delivered in a light and joking manner, and followed up by the requisite happy ending, the characters often show little in the way of hurt feelings. It's not in the the script. No one would watch a sitcom where the odd man out attempted suicide. If Disney aired it, parents would be screaming and it would be blogged about  by Moms from here to China. No one thinks twice about a pop princess who mouths off to her Daddy, treats her best friend like so much trash, and at the end of the story, faces no consequences.

Life doesn't follow a script, and kids don't have screen writers making sure that they don't cross the parent friendly line. They lack the filter that says...this is too much. I'm literally crushing this person's spirit. No, William Golding had it right. Children can have a really mean spirit about them, especially in a group. Left alone, they will murder the weak.

Maybe we shouldn't let them spend an hour or so a day watching people treat each other like dirt.

If you think, just for one minute, that these things haven't played a part, that life isn't exaggerating art, let me ask you this. Who picks the clothes your child is wearing? What show are they on?

Maybe we should keep the computers, and the cell phones, and all the technology where we can see it. In the living room, where we can see by the looks on our children's faces whether or not some little jerk is invading our fortress via instant messenger.

Maybe we should stop being cool long enough to be parents.

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