Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Columns

You may know where the body is but not your child’s head


Published:

Our children’s world has changed. There are few neighborhoods where parents feel comfortable to let their children play outside all day. In many communities, there are few same age children nearby to interact with even if the parents were courageous enough to let them go outdoors.

American parents feel guilty that their child has no friends. They believe it is their responsibility to provide their child with the opportunity to be around peers. Their parents chauffeur youngsters to one activity after another. As the child’s interest fades in the newest activity, they move on to another, which results in losing old acquaintances and temporarily making others.

In the preteen through early teenage years, children have turned toward social media to make contacts. Due to the lack of friends in the neighborhood, friendships made at school are often difficult to carry on after school. Our modern children have solved this issue through the Internet. Youngsters are involved with virtual relationships.

The parents are delighted with this set up. Children are home safely in their rooms on the computer. These parents may not be as proficient on the Internet as their children, but feel comfortable enough that they can access their child’s computer history.

Modern parents are well aware with their knowledge of Facebook that they can easily monitor their child’s activity on it. Parents have the ability to control the time their child is allowed to play video games and use the computer. Most parents feel cyberspace is safer for them than being outside the house in the community.

Parents are being naïve. They should think long and hard about the potential perils of virtual reality.

Incredible advances in technology are making it difficult to keep up with the rapidly evolving computer scene. These ever-increasing social media and video games are expanding opportunities for youngsters to hide their postings of “sexting” inappropriate photos and false bios on the Internet.

Recent apps such as Instagram, Kik messenger and Snapchat are just the tip of the iceberg of unlimited messaging. Many new mobile applications are free and can be used with a Kindle Fire or the iPod Touch as long as there is a wireless connection. The proliferation of these apps is making it practically impossible to follow a child’s virtual existence.

The ability to know what your child is doing on electronic devices has become an almost impossible proposition. Presently, Apple has over 800,000 apps and Google Play has over 700,000. Youngsters have the ability on Snapchat to send a text photo that self-destructs in 1-10 seconds after being opened.

There are some physical dangers in the cyberspace world. Perverted individuals can penetrate these social media and appear to be an appealing person to meet the vulnerable youngsters.

Video gaming may keep youngsters off the streets but there is a potential price to pay. These games have reached a level of psychological sophistication that the American Psychological Association is discussing the possibility of including it in the upcoming Diagnostic Statistical Manual V. There are already addiction centers established in Amsterdam to assist youngsters in dealing with their addictive gaming. This issue is becoming more pronounced throughout the nation.

The most common and potentially damaging consequence of living a virtual life is to the minds of these children. Parents cannot protect or guide their children when they have no idea what they are doing or thinking in the world of virtual reality. Social media readily alters their desires and moral values with strangers and gaming.

Television babysitting impacted the values and expectations of youngsters who passively watched advertisements and programs. Active interacting with others via social media or playing video games has a far more immediate impact on their thinking, behavior and spirituality.

Parents, beware; these modern electronics are far more dangerous to the soul of a child than getting into a verbal or physical fight with another child. Significantly limiting the access on the computer may be the only way to insure children’s’ minds remain open to parental direction and are attuned to the real world, not pathetically floating in the dangerous virtual world.


Dr. Maglio is an author and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com.

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