Can We Save Childhood?

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If our country is to survive and thrive, we must pay close attention to the lives of our children.  Parents’ lives have become so complicated and their work so all-consuming, raising their children is much more difficult than it was in years past.  A majority of mothers work, either by choice or necessity.  Children are often placed in day care from infancy until they are ready for school.  Their lives are structured each day.  There is very little time to just “be”.  Once they are in school, their day is long, and by the time the family is finally gathered together at the end of the day, evenings are often filled with organized activities such as sports, dance classes, Scouting, and such.  Somehow, in the midst of this, supper must be eaten and homework finished.  This lifestyle in itself puts a great deal of pressure on both parents and children.  There is little time for quiet discussions or private conversations.

Having cared for my own grandchildren during the day when they were young, I have been exposed to the TV programming for today’s children.  For the most part, I find it very odd.  For the youngest children, most of the programs feature little computerized “people” or “animals”.  With the exception of “Peppa Pig”, I found no shows for little ones that were based on a family, with parents and children.  When my children were young, “Mister Rogers” presented wholesome programs each day that not only taught children about the world around them, but also instilled values and stressed the importance of kindness in dealing with others.  

Now that my grandchildren are older, I see very few programs with any social value at all.  Most of them are demeaning to parents, and lack any moral values.  These are programs where the children and teens seem to have no limits whatsoever, no respect, and there is seldom any redeeming quality at all.  I remember watching TV with my children during “Family Hour” each night, when programs appropriate for children were broadcast.  Today, there is no family hour — as soon as the news is over on the traditional channels, we go immediately to incredibly violent and bloody shows or comedies which highlight family dysfunction or sexuality.  

While parents try to regulate what their children are watching or playing on the various forms of computer technology, it is difficult at best, with the constant availability of IPhones and IPads and laptops in homes.  Access to highly inappropriate material is much too easy in today’s technological world.

There are parents who make every effort to provide their children with the attention, support, and time that is necessary to raise competent, caring, well-adjusted children in our world of distractions and artificiality.  They sit down together for meals and make sure their children are reading worthwhile books.  They answer their children’s questions and include them in family decisions.  They include family time in their busy schedules — time to walk in the woods, go swimming together, or sit around a campfire at night and talk.  They comment on the TV programs their children are watching and the games they are playing — inserting their own moral values into the mix.  Their children know that they can ask questions without hesitation; they can talk honestly to their parents about their feelings, with no repercussions.  This is not easy in today’s fast-paced world, though.  It requires a great deal of determination and time.

In the homes where this is not being done, this generation of children is left to fend for itself — to sift through the vastly inappropriate choices in an effort to learn what is appropriate behavior, to make mistakes with no one to catch them as they fall, to live in a world where sitting in a closed room playing a senseless video game is more appealing than playing in the sunshine with friends, to grow up without the tools to know right from wrong, and in the worst cases, to become one of those violent people on our TV screens and video games. 

I worry for us all!!

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