noun: selfie; plural noun: selfies; noun: selfy
an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.
Maybe you’re a perfect parent and your kids never do anything digitally. And, maybe your perfect parenting has paid off and your kids never act self-centered. Or, maybe you’re a parent like me… and you struggle with your kids having a selfie-centered focus, glued to their glowing screens.
We didn’t let our son have a cell phone until he was 15. We also didn’t allow him to have a Facebook page (ever). And, during the summer, we shut off our DirectTV service so our kids will go outside and do “kid things,” instead of stare at a TV screen.
Um… our kids have found ways around our parental tactics and they hover around screens anyway.
Our son has an i-Phone and our 13-year-old daughter has an i-Pod (no phone service, but she can text, Snapchat, Instagram and more). I’m aware that we could take the kids’ digital devices away; instead, we’ve chosen to set certain limits and boundaries on our kids’ screen access. But, their screens still beckon them daily.
And, that is why I want to tackle the biggest challenge of having children who are a part of the screen-staring generation. Common Sense Media claims “kids today spend over 50 hours of screen time every week.” Research shows this much screen time detracts from our children’s physical, mental and spiritual health.
Behind this research lies one, big question: WHAT ARE THE GLOWING SCREENS OF THE DIGITAL WORLD TEACHING OUR KIDS?
I believe the digital glow is shining back on the face of every child and whispering, “YOU are the center of everything. YOUR digital image is what matters. You need to have the best Instagram comments, the cutest Snapchat story, the sexiest Facebook ‘selfie,’ the most hilarious YouTube videos plus you need to have the greatest number of followers on all of those things.”
The whisper persists, “YOU need to be entertained AND entertaining. YOU need to be cute, funny, sexy and smart… online… all the time.” The digital world is turning our kids into little gods to themselves… and, sometimes, to each other.
I’ve watched my son take endless streams of photos of himself for his friends on Snapchat; I’ve seen my daughter take selfies through the latest filters and send them off to her friends. One of her most recent special-effect-filter photos is her with a dog nose, shot alongside our dog for an extra cute effect.
I understand that, for generations, teens have been self-centered. I was a typical self-centered teen, myself, years ago. I also know that teens today are not a lost cause; our teens (including my own) are precious and full of wondrous potential. I am just pointing out the fight we face as 21st century parents. We must arm ourselves and our kids against the world of “selfies,” before it trains our kids to think their public “self” image trumps everything else.
Kids are not being told it’s more honorable to help somebody else before helping your “self.” They’re not applauded for not having time for Facebook because they help out at the homeless shelter. They’re not taught that serving other people is more redeeming than serving themselves.
Will The Golden Rule be replaced by the “gold selfie standard?” It’s no longer about treating others as you want to be treated… it’s more like, “Treat yourself!” Will “Love thy neighbor as thyself” be twisted into simply “love thyself?”
I recently saw this point made by a very little girl at an In-N-Out Burger (my husband is obsessed with In-N-Out Burger, so we plan our vacations around the states where that fast-food chain resides). During one of our daily jaunts to In-N-Out, I saw this little girl wearing a t-shirt that read, “Love your #Selfie.” Really? That’s all. Just “self?”
Notably, this Look Out For #1 mentality has trickled into multiple arenas, including politics and education.
As principal of a high school (and head varsity football coach), my husband has witnessed vivid examples of serving “selfie” in the educational arena. He’s had to deal with too many parents, who demand special treatment for their child’s special needs, special gifts or special talents. It’s not that some kids don’t need or deserve special attention; it’s more that parents are leading their kids to believe it’s all about them and their needs. Some parents seem less concerned with teaching their children to be part of a team and more concerned with telling their kids to look out only for themselves.
I’m reminded of a much better rule, painted on the wall of the weight room where my husband’s football team works out. At the top of the sign, the word “team” is displayed in very large letters and below that, in very small letters, is the word “me.” In that order. Putting others before self.
I’m also reminded of a quote I read recently in the book “Burn,” by Ted DeKker and Erin Healy. One of the characters states: “When we quit trying to meet our needs, we find more satisfaction in meeting the needs of others. God shows us how much we have to offer the world, and how unimportant our own desires are.”
So what’s a parent to do for their children, who are lured daily by a selfie world? What approaches can parents use to teach their kids to be less selfie-centered?
Allow me to offer a few takeaway examples for parents seeking to get their children to look beyond “selfies”.
- Serve Thy Neighbor Teach your kids to “help thy neighbor.” Every summer, challenge your kids to find some neighbors to help, whether it’s watering an elderly woman’s garden or taking a post-surgery neighbor’s dog for a walk. Or, set up a schedule for you and your child to help at a local rescue mission.
- Perspective Flip When your child comes to you with a complaint about a peer or a teacher or a coach, try the “perspective flip” approach… better known as “walk a mile in another person’s shoes.” Ask the child to consider how their peer/teacher/coach might be feeling in this or that conflict… or what might have made them react to your child in a way that was hurtful?
- Hero Models Tell your kids about heroes or heroines, who’ve made a habit of practicing selfless acts, like soldiers and social workers or Mother Teresa, herself.