Wednesday, June 13, 2012

OMG is a four letter word

Chaperoning the fourth grade field trip to Letchworth State Park was an eye opening experience. I have such fond memories of riding the bus to the zoo with these same children as Kindergartners, wearing Little Princess t-shirts and velcro sneakers. In three short years they have grown into the equivalent of my own seventh grade class twenty years ago. When my junior class attended our class picnic at the same park, in the same pavilion, I saw a CD for the first time.It has been said recently that our the life are children live is experientially as different from the twentieth century as our lives were from the eighteenth century.
The kids riding the bus yesterday were sporting iphones and digital cameras. I broke up one fight between boys and confiscated an Ipod when I discovered the fourth grader holding it was watching x rated videos. The girls were catty and it was obvious which clique was holding all the cards. It was more obvious who the ring leader of the group was and she easily drew tears when her minions did not follow orders. I try to see the little girl inside and wonder if it is insecurity that forces her to create a circle around herself. If it is insecurity that persuades her to do whatever it takes to keep that circle intact. The other girls were willing to forsake their own ideals just to stay in her favor. She was the Queen and they were her ladies in waiting. When they started singing together in the back of the bus, I was able to look beyond appearances and see the children still inside of them. Until they started singing, word for word, the latest pop singles. They definitely were not singing girl scout songs. And the boys were not talking about soccer or baseball, they were discussing the latest Grand Theft Auto xbox game.

My best friend is a teacher and she told me a story about taking her class to see the famous Cleopatra exhibit in Philadelphia. In order to go on the trip, the kids were missing another activity at school that day in which they were being given cookies. The kids were bored and listless and complaining constantly that they were not getting their cookie. Our local kids don't have the chance to see such famous museums but it is quite possible that if they did, the same would be true. If it does not have multimedia or lasers or a coffee house, it just is not going to excite the kids of today. It is a sad phenomenon and I wonder why we would encourage it. All I hear is "mine" and "want" and "bored" from my children and it was not that way just a short year or two ago. Things are different now and by different I do not mean better. Don't we want them to think for themselves? Don't we want them to be KIDS?

I expect to see the high school kids sporting cell phones and Ipods but when did it become "the thing" to put expensive technology in the hands of kids so young that they cannot stop themselves from running to the edge of a cliff or into a patch of poison ivy? These days, facebook and cell phones ARE poison ivy in the hands of children too immature to think before they hit "send". When my own daughter asked me for a cell phone and told me that most of her class had one, I did not believe her. I did not think it could possibly be true that nine and ten year old kids had phones. But they do. I understand wanting to keep track of a teenager but at ten, I know where my daughter is at all times. And if I need to talk to her, I can call the parent of the child she is with. If she is at school, I can email her teacher. I don't need to search for her and I WANT her to have adults she can go to for help. It's important that she be able to talk to her teacher and she does not need me on speed dial. Being able to text me at a moment's notice may make us closer but it separates her from the rest of the world. It changes the way she communicates. It make SEEM to make her more independent but I think in fact that the opposite is true.

Texting is changing the way our kids interact. It is changing the way they socialize. My teenager can have long, deep conversations with his girlfriends on facebook or with a phone but finds he can't talk to the same girls when they are face to face. And when I try to understand them when they ARE forced to talk, they speak with abbreviations and monosyllables. OMG. WTH. LOL. I would rather have them actually laugh out loud then substitute that with a three letter word. In this case, 3 does equal 4. What we have done to our children with this so called progress IS a four letter word. Rumors spin out of control. Bullying is no longer hand to hand, it is done with the ease of a button. Kids are killing themselves over this.

I want to encourage my children to explore themselves. Express themselves. PLAY. Playing this game of who has the best phone and who has the most contacts is taking away their childhood. It was easy to spot the offspring of the parents who still believe this. They were making up games, collecting leaves, looking for wildlife and playing on the playground. Most of the boys seemed to be phone free and they teamed up to play baseball. My daughter wanted to take as many pictures as she could of a little girl with a life threatening illness and created memories that she would be able to cherish. She tried to protect the kids who were feeling sick on the bus. She was not alone entirely in this. I saw a few girls covering their sick friend with their own jackets and stroking her head to make her feel better. I saw little boys excited over holding a snake and my own daughters best friend brought home two little snails. She protected them as best she could on the ride home until another child was dared to eat one. I watched in awe as this sweet little girl bit into a snail just because the popular crew was chanting her name. She wanted desperately to fit into this group.

Bella's best friend was wearing a shirt she made herself and still had bits of face paint on her cheeks from the day before. They didn't compare labels on their clothes and they did not spend their time shooting texts. Later that day, Bella's best friend made her very FIRST phone call to our house (using her MOM'S cell phone) just to say "I love you, Bella". I saw them caring. And sharing. And expressing concern for the girl's in the back of the bus who only seemed to care who had the best phone. Bella is still a little girl. She finds joy in hula hooping and still takes baths with her little sister. I see her growing up but it is ok with me if she takes her time. She will only be a child for a few short years and there is plenty of time for her to stress about things like phones and blogs and social pressure in the years ahead. If she wants to ask a friend to play, she can walk down the street and knock on their door the old fashioned way. She can have fun with a garden hose or in the creek. She can run in the sun and pick flowers without worrying about her tan or her hair. And she does not need to stop what she is doing to check her text messages. Life should be simple. Carefree. Fun. If that means she deals with not having the latest of everything, so be it.

No comments:

Post a Comment