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How to Instil Virtues in Your Child in a Selfie-Obsessed World

Tween Selfie
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Are your children living in a selfie-obsessed world? Do you feel their emotions and self-esteem are validated by their online connections rather than by ‘real-world’ engagement? Garry Woodford, Pastoral Leader at Southern Cross Catholic College Secondary Campus, provides his insight and tips for raising virtuous children in a selfie-obsessed world.

Please excuse me for my opinions, but after 20 years of teaching in both the primary and secondary sector, designing and implementing social and emotional programs to  children, youth and adults, working in the latest innovations of neuroscience, and helping raise my own and partner’s children (including a stepson who is 17 years of age) I am pretty across this concern.

On the threshold of my four daughters becoming teenage girls, becoming “selfie-obsessed” is currently something extremely close to the heart of our household. I have almost broken into a cold sweat about it on more than one occasion, worrying endlessly how we are going to encourage four young girls to remain virtuous, confident, engaging, respectful and able communicators, who actually still like us and don’t spend their entire lives primping themselves for the next online Snapchat moment or Instagram-worthy pose.

And on it goes. We, as the parents, are often accepting of this selfie-obsessed behaviour as we feel compelled to get onboard. Often to avoid the conflict, we allow our kids time to connect via social media online, hoping that this will support belonging in our teenagers as they feel one with their community the only way they know how. Yet the research is showing us that there is a consequence for too much technology self-indulgence.

When too much technology is not enough

Alarmingly, the consequences of too much technology results in the hard wiring of our brains to seek the dopamine hit that often only technology stimulation provides. It is as addictive as drugs, but it does not get quelled by the acts of normal life and this is alarming. Living in the day seems far less interesting than being present with our actual friends and family. Our children appear slaves to the machine we know as technology and this is only increasing. Not only that, issues such as body dysmorphia, anxiety and depression are increasing due to life not delivering the same electric-charged impulse gained from our kid’s and students’ devices. Parents, teachers and educators are now battling to keep their children and students engaged, as information from humans is now too slow for their often-over-stimulated brain. Have you ever been halfway through a conversation with your teenager when you notice their phone has buzzed 15 times in the last minute?

Not too long ago, back in the dark ages, we did a little thing called communicate. We did not worry about what we looked like as we were hanging with our mates down at the jetty as we could not see ourselves. We did not need the 73 likes on Instagram to feel like we had friends who accepted us. We did not care how our hair fell or what pose we were striking or who was going to see it because we were too busy living our best life as it occurred, in the present. Carefree laughter and presence.

This no longer the case.

Re-connecting with your selfie-obsessed child

Family laying Table Together and Chatting

So how do we still raise virtuous children? Well to start with we need to lead by example. We still need to lay the foundation of their moral code. They learn from us; who we are; how we live. Children are always watching what we do, not what we say. Are we ourselves selfie-obsessed and glued to technology? Phones, laptops, iPads as opposed to engaging with our own children or partners? Children who have quality time with their families are less likely to seek external validation.

We need to be mindful of the values we live by. What kind of role models are we? Do our children feel loved, supported, and challenged by us? Do we provide them with boundaries that are set because we care for their wellbeing? Or are they left to their own devices?

The reality is, the more time spent on technology equals more self-absorbed selfies, and this does not increase or replace genuine connection. Nothing replaces real human connection. As parents, be present. Show up. Engage on a daily basis, which involves quality time – at least 30 minutes a day – spent with your children.

In our home, we eat together as a family. We play a board game, we discuss the day, we read out a card that requires engagement and discussion from the rest of the family, which includes real-life issues, decision-making, resilience and feeling. Girls particularly need their Dads or a male role model who invests in them. Reading to your children in primary school and sharing a hobby with your child also enables great ongoing connection. The saying ‘the family that plays together stays together’ is as true as ever. Children still need a hug and someone to really hear them. Take the time to listen not just tell them how they need to live. Sometimes they just need that safe and significant parent/guardian in their lives to be there whilst they download.

TIPS FOR PARENTS

  • Two hours technology a day
  • 7-9 hours sleep for all children and teens
  • 20-30 minutes exercise/outdoor activity
  • Balanced diet, including plenty of water
  • Practise 2-5 minutes of mindfulness a day
  • No technology in the bedroom and no technology one hour before sleep
  • Listen and be present

GOOD READS FOR UNDERSTANDING AND EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATING WITH CHILDREN, TEENS AND ADULTS

  • The Whole Brain-Child – 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.
  • Brainstorm – The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D
  • 5 Love Languages – The Secret to Loving Children Effectively, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
  • Personality Plus – How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself, Florence Littauer
  • Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope, Johann Hari.

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