Kids these days...
Every generation thinks kids these days are different.
Adults went through the same things in their formative years, noted Keith Deltano, a former teacher who now leads a nationwide, anti-bullying campaign.
But there was a difference. Back then, differences were subtle.
“Our parents wore bell bottoms, we wore corduroy,” he joked.
But today’s kids truly are different in many ways, thanks to an increasingly polarized and toxic society, and the explosion of social media platforms.
Deltano, invited to Iola on behalf of Humanity House and the Farm-City Days Committee, spoke Wednesday on a number of topics about bullying, suicide and other forces at work in today’s world. Following presentations at a number of schools in Allen County, Deltano was at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center that evening to visit with parents.
ARMED WITH statistics and more than a few humorous anecdotes, Deltano spoke about how to protect youngsters from bullying, skills that, in no small coincidence, can help them thrive later on.
It’s important to note, he began, that children are influenced by many factors, but none more so than their parents, and not just in doling out rewards or punishments.
Kids are perceptive at detecting how their parents react to certain stimuli, good and bad.
He started by stressing the importance of instilling competence, confidence and self-identity.
Parents need to give their kids a “thing,” he said, an outlet, a skill or a passion in which they can thrive.
“But don’t say video games,” he warned. “Gaming is not a thing.”
For example, Deltano pointed to his own son, who struggled at various activities until he found one that clicked — ballet.
Ballet led to his son eventually becoming successful in sports, such as taekwondo.
“Sometimes a thing gets you to another thing, which takes you to another thing that eventually gets you to what you want to do,” he said. “But you’ve got to do that first thing.”
And the way society works today, kids are ingrained to find their passions earlier in life.
Time was, kids weren’t even introduced to the topic of college or careers until they were at least in middle school. Today, youngsters are bombarded with such inquisitions in grade school.
Social hierarchy has become even more prevalent, an issue exacerbated by social media.
“We all worry about where we fit in as youngsters,” he said. “When you were young, you used to think about which groups were popular. Today’s kids are incredibly worried about it. And here’s the difference between us and them. They’ll kill themselves over it.”
Allowing youngsters to try, and fail, is just as essential. Parents can help create opportunities for success, but must step back in order for youngsters to either succeed, or fail, on their own.
Then, if things aren’t going well, a parent can step in.
IN 1979, Time Magazine posted an article pointing to potentially adverse effects of children watching too much television — an average of eight hours a week.
Today’s youth spends an average of nine hours a day on a screen of some sort, be it cell phone, computer screen or television.
Producers have honed their ability to reach young minds through multiple platforms, to try to capture their imaginations, Deltano noted.
In so doing, those media platforms have created their own social hierarchy.
“Kids consume this stuff,” he said. “And whatever you consume becomes your value system. It changes the way you think about things.”
That’s where parent intervention is crucial.
“If you let culture take over, and you don’t intercede, it leads to catastrophic thinking,” Deltano said. “You have to start right off the bat.”
So significant are these factors that medical research confirms brain processes for children on social media work differently.
“Go to Google and enter ‘teen brain MRI social media,’” he said. “Their brains fire differently. And this is messing them up.”
Social media, like alcohol, tobacco or drugs, is just as addictive. Take a phone or video game away from a child, he said, and see their reaction.
“Have I frightened you?” he asked. “Kids are susceptible to cultural influences we never had to deal with.”
DELTANO pointed out several tools in a parent’s arsenal that also have been developed in the information age.
He stressed all parents should utilize social media filters and monitoring software.
“Use technology to fight that technology,” he said.
The key, he said, is to talk to your children as you’re installing these tools.
Yes, the kids may squawk, calling it an invasion of privacy.
“Everything I do, I talk to (my kids) about,” he said. “There’s a whole world out there. Sometimes they need protecting.”