Tag Archive for pressure

The Burden of a Smartphone

It has happened to me several times now. I meet a child in fifth, sixth, or seventh grade who is exhausted, depressed, and ready for a rest.  After a few questions I discover they do not go to sleep until 2, 3, or even 4 o’clock in the morning! Why? Because they are “on their phone texting friends and playing games.” These experiences, combined with an exert (A Smartphone Will Change Your Child in Ways You Might Not Expect or Want) from Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book Be the Parent: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat, increased my understanding of the smartphone as a burden for our children. Yes, giving a preteen or teen a smartphone places a burden on them. We, as parents, need to know that burden and establish parameters to teach them how to manage that burden. How is a smartphone a burden?

  • When children receive a smartphone they move into a culture of “24/7 popularity competition” in the words of Anderson Cooper in the documentary Being Thirteen. They begin to judge their popularity on likes and shares. They see posts in which their friends are having fun without them, maybe even during an activity to which they were not even invited. Selfies and group selfies taken during “fun activities” engaged in “without me” raise thoughts of “not being popular enough.” “Maybe they don’t even like me” and “why are they hanging out with them after what they did to me” are thoughts that cross many a preteen’s mind as they see pictures of their peers having fun without them. Loneliness increases. Feelings of isolation can even flood over many a teen in this situation.
  • At the same time, it becomes more difficult to avoid the drama of the preteen and teen life. “Who said what about whom,” “who does what,” and “who does what with whom” flood the digital airways, popping up on phones 24/7. It’s hard for your teen to go into their room and “get away from it all” because “it all” follows them wherever they take their phones.
  • This also means news is constantly at their fingertips. News of school shootings, Korean bomb threats, police brutality, catastrophic tsunamis in distant lands, and threats of political upheaval in countries they may have never heard of pop up on their phone at all hours of the day. And, little to no positive headlines pop up on the news.  Instead, a steady stream of random “breaking news” pops up with no coherent story behind them. This constant stream of disconnected catastrophes can overwhelm our children with information, increasing their level of anxiety.
  • This constant flow of information includes texts, snapchats, and instagram pics from friends as well. Our children feel obligated and pressured to respond to texts and other digital “pokes” that pop up on their phone. They fear their friends will accuse them of “ignoring” them if they do not answer immediately. And, they feel ignored if their friends do not respond to them immediately. Imagine the pressure of needed to respond to others every minute of every day no matter your current activity.

These are only four ways in which a smartphone becomes a burden that can increase our children’s sense of exhaustion, pressure, anxiety, and depression. It also raises concern for their safety from predators and bullies or the pressure to look “perfect” in the selfie. So, what’s a parent to do? Parents can help their children learn to manage this burden by establishing limits for cell phone usage. Here are a few ideas to help.

  1. Learn the phone settings. Determine which “pop ups” and notifications your child needs and which just cause more stress. Turn off unnecessary notifications.
  2. Do not let your child charge their phone in the bedroom. Instead, plug it in overnight to charge in the kitchen or in your bedroom. It is easier to not respond to a peer’s text because “my mom has the phone after 9” than ignoring it when it is charging next to “my bed.”
  3. During dinner and family meals enjoy one another’s company. No phones allowed. No texting. No checking email. No checking Facebook or Instagram. No reading “pop ups” and notifications. Put the phone someplace else and enjoy one another’s company.
  4. Enjoy one another during family outings too. No responding to texts. No checking Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media app. Leave the phones in a purse, backpack, or pocket and enjoy the company of the people you are with.
  5. Parents maintain access to the phones their children use. Our children may manage the phone very well but find themselves bullied through the phone or sent inappropriate pics through the phone. So, parents need to have full access. That means parents know the passwords for their children’s phones. And, parents check their children’s phones from time to time.  A good time to check the phone is when it is charging in the kitchen overnight. Any inappropriate materials will need to be discussed with the child who uses the phone.

What other limits might help ease the burden of a Smartphone?

Christmas is a Harsh Taskmaster

Forget the jolly guy in the red suit and the sentimental pics of families peacefully picking out the perfect Christmas tree. Christmas has become a harsh taskmaster. This taskmaster Woman in red Santa costume having a bad headachebegins to snap out orders with the crack of a whip just before Thanksgiving, when the “black Friday sales” start on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He barks out commands about buying perfect gifts, finding the best tree, putting up the most extravagant display of lights (before the neighbors), baking the tastiest cookies for all to talk about, attending the parties, watching for sales, and paying Christmas bills. The list of demands goes on and the pressures increase. Stress overwhelms as we strive to meet each of the Christmas Taskmasters commands. Yes, Christmas has become a harsh taskmaster.

Obeying the harsh taskmaster of Christmas, I risked life and limb to fight through the gridlock of traffic, cut off by impatient drivers weaving in and out of traffic, to arrive at the mall in search of the demanded perfect gift. I walked through a crowd of people seemingly unaware of personal space and common courtesies bumping and pushing past me to be the first one to buy the “gift of the year.” Suddenly, steadying myself against the tide of crazed shoppers driven on by the taskmaster of Christmas, I caught a glimpse of a manger scene. Quietly, peacefully, Mary and Joseph gazed in adoration at the Baby Jesus, the Son of God. I stopped for a moment and realized they too knew the taskmaster of Christmas. They felt the pressure of living as an oppressed people under the harsh rule of a foreign power. They had traveled to Bethlehem in response to the political demands of the taskmaster. They have fought the frenzied crowds seemingly unaware of personal courtesies. The taskmaster would not even allow them a place to lay their head. Mary and Joseph knew the taskmaster’s accusation against an unwed yet pregnant teen. The taskmaster whip came down hard on Mary and Joseph as they searched Bethlehem for a place to rest.  There is no rest for you, scolded the taskmaster.

Yet now I see Mary and Joseph looking on in worship at the Light of the world, the Creator of all, God Incarnate, Emmanuel. I love that name—Emmanuel. He is the God who was with Israel to deliver them from the harsh taskmaster of Egypt, the One who was with us to deliver us from slavery to the taskmaster of sin. He is the One with us to liberate from the taskmaster of the Law. He delivered and liberated us from the harsh taskmasters, so we have no need to fall under another. Perhaps Mary and Joseph have an important message for us. They were unfazed by the taskmaster’s whip. They simply looked to the Baby Jesus, the Incarnate God who has come to set them free once again. The Christmas taskmaster holds no power and rule over them or us. We do not need to worry and scheme for the perfect holiday experience or struggle and rush to meet the demands of Christmas giving. We simply need to rest in gratitude and amazement. We need only look in quiet trust at the perfect, generous gift God has already given to us, His Son. We do not need to succumb to any taskmaster. We can give ourselves to God and then to others in celebration. We are free! Free to love and wonder, rest and share, serve and bless. We are free to experience peaceful worship of the Christ Child rather than feel the pressure of the frenzied crowds of Bethlehem (or the mall traffic). We are free to celebrate the joyful adoration of seeing the Child in the manger rather than rushing to satisfy the taskmaster’s pomp and circumstance. We are free to love Christ, our Savior, and one another more deeply. Have a joyous and merry Christmas!

Children & Pressure: What’s a Parent To Do?

Our children face multiple pressures. They live in a world where significance is idolized, recognition (being number 1) is sought with great fervor, and self-worth is determined by performance. Those pressures, unfortunately, sneak into our lives as parents and attack our children from within the home…from their own family…from us! Lies and rumors voiced among parents in the community fuel our fears and those fears translate into a performance-orientation. Hearing other parents boast about the accolades, awards, and opportunities their children have received arouses our own insecurities and fans the fear that our children may miss out on the “limited opportunities available” for success. Rumors incite us to encourage our children to prepare their college resume as soon as possible, to become proficient in sports yesterday, and to make crucial career decisions now. As a result, our children are forced to make adult decisions before they are developmentally ready. They find themselves compelled to make commitments to adult pursuits (career, sports involvement, etc.) while still lacking the experience and wisdom to do so. When these pressures sneak into our family life, whether the result of parental fears or misguided dreams, our children suffer. They find no respite, no relief. As family shepherds, we must guard our home against these pressures in order to maintain a refuge for our children. How? Here are a few hints to help.
 
First, identify the pressures your children face in their school and community. Most likely, they encounter one or all three of the following pressures.
     1.      They may feel the pressure to achieve, perform, and gain recognition. They may also feel that the only way to truly know you have achieved is to earn prizes and awards. In the midst of this performance-oriented environment, children find it difficult to simply enjoy a fun activity. Such an environment threatens to squeeze the joy of internal motivation out of our children and replace it with the craving for external rewards.
     2.      Or, your community may emphasize material belongings. Perhaps the families in your community live by the rule that says “the one with the most toys wins.” 
     3.      Your children may also encounter families that feel the need to give children everything they want, to never suffer the pain of disappointment or discipline…even if it means the family suffers. In these families, children’s schedules and desires run the household. Children grow more entitled every day as their family experiences a growing sense of resentment over their children’s lack of gratitude.
 
After you have identified the threat, give serious thought to your own beliefs in that area. Parents also risk falling into the trap of community pressure. To avoid the discomfort of seeing our children disappointed or “wanting,” we may give in to their demands and spoil them. We don’t want them to miss out on the opportunities that their peers experience, so we give into their every request and desire. In our desire for them to “have a better life than us,” we push them to perform and achieve in order to get into the best colleges or gain the most promising opportunities. All done with the best of intentions, but none the less, conforming to the pressures of the world that harass our children.
 
Once you have identified the pressures your children face and confirmed that you do not personally play a role in creating those pressures, you can create alternatives in your home. Since your children most likely encounter at least three pressures, consider at least these three alternatives.
     1.      Replace the pressure to achieve and perform with the grace of unconditional acceptance. Honor one another for effort and learn to celebrate participation in activities by simply having fun together. Allow your family to play and enjoy one another’s company without the need to perform a certain way or achieve a certain level of “expertise.” Have fun just to have fun!
     2.      Replace the emphasis on material belongings with a focus on relationships. Give your family the gift of your time. Let them know that your relationship with them is far more important than any material blessing you might have. Teach them that material belongings do not bring happiness, loving relationships do. Build intimacy with one another. Practice gratitude for the many material, relational, and spiritual blessing you do have…and share gratitude freely with one another.
     3.      Replace a sense of entitlement with an environment of generosity and service. Teach your children that we find greater joy in giving than in receiving. Model generosity with your affection toward them and your service in the home. Teach them by example and actions that service is a sign of true greatness.
 
Make your home a place of refuge from the world of pressure. Create an environment of honor and grace. Shape your family into a celebrating community of honor and grace.