By Robyn Shulman
Kids need their parents more now than ever. As a teacher and a parent, I have been given the opportunity to see both worlds. As much as technology has changed the world for the better, it has also put our young generation at risk in many different ways. Childhood is not what it used to be-even compared to 10 years ago. As parents, we must be able to assure our children are getting what they need to become healthy and stable citizens. As we become busier as adults, we must remember our kids need us to listen, to be interested in their lives, to ask, and to show how much we care for them. Take the extra time, ask detailed questions about their day, spend time talking at dinner-all of these little things add up in unparalleled positive ways. Great areas of concern: Consistently Online: Many children are living online-attached to their iphones, texting, and social media outlets-they are looking for attention in these areas if they are not getting enough at home and within their activities. They are competing for ‘likes’, posting inappropriate images and many leave themselves at high risk for exposure. Talk to your child-find out what he/she is doing and posting online (you may be shocked at first). Don’t let the Internet be the venue that defines his/her growth, acceptance and self-confidence. Bullying: If your child is being bullied at school or online, odds are he/she will not tell you immediately. Watch for signs-resistant to go to school, goes to the nurse often, drop in grades, depression-the red flags are there if this is occurring and we must pay attention and take action. Unfortunately, as bad as it is to deal with at school, it now carries over to online venues. According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:
- Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
- Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
- Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
Physical Health: According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. Kids need to run, feel the sun, climb trees, play ball and enjoy nature-they need to be kids. Kids of Affluence and Risk: According to Dr. Madeline Levine, in recent years, numerous studies have shown that bright, charming, seemingly confident and socially skilled teenagers from affluent, loving families are experiencing epidemic rates of depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders; rates higher than in any other socioeconomic group of American adolescents. Materialism, pressure to achieve, perfectionism, and disconnection are combining to create a perfect storm. These kids face different challenges than those living in poverty. As we grow together online, we must still grow together at home and as a family. Kids need us in the same ways they always have-the gaps are bigger and the challenges are different. However, love and acceptance remains the same-and it is greatly needed in this ever-changing world. The one truth that will live on forever-it all begins at home.