Human contact lacking in today’s push-button parenting

By: Lynette Long

Police cars sit parked outside Richmond High School in Richmond, Calif. where authorities are investigating the rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl on school grounds following a homecoming dance. (AP photo)

In Deerfield Beach, Fla., five boys surrounded seventh-grader Michael Brewer, doused him with alcohol, and set him on fire in mid-October. Brewer survived the attack but has burns on more than 65 percent of his body.

Chicago honor student Derrion Albert, 16, wasn’t so lucky. His death was taped on a cell phone as a group of boys brutally beat him with wooden boards in late September.

Each of these crimes was particularly disturbing because not only did the perpetrators show no respect for human life but no empathy for the pain and suffering inflicted on the victims of their crimes.

These recent attacks horrified a nation that is struggling to curb teen violence and understand why so many teens seem so out of control.


As a society, we tend to look to the already overburdened school systems to fix problems with our youth.

Traditional interventions of increasing school security, teaching values in the classroom and increasing police presence in and around schools, will do little to curb the frequency or the intensity of these attacks. Schools didn’t create these problems and they can’t fix them.

Teachers and administrators are the psychological victims of teen violence as they spend their days working in “urban war zones.” The problems with our youth start long before they enter school and can only be addressed by educating parents and making them accountable for their children.

The sad truth is a cultural shift and technological advances have changed the way we parent our children, reduced their respect for authority and their ability to authentically connect with others.

Traditional time-intensive methods of parenting have been scrapped for efficiency. The rocking chair has been replaced by an electronic swing, story time by a video and face time by glimpses through the rearview mirror of a car.

Board games, which once fostered interpersonal interaction and sportsmanship, have been replaced by first-person shooter video games such as “Doom” and “Call of Duty” that desensitize children to killing.

Face-to-face interaction with groups of friends has been replaced by “instant messaging” and social networking sites like Facebook. The primary mode of one-on-one conversations has shifted from talking to texting.

Children need contact with other humans to grow up to be healthy adults. The early years have a profound effect on adult behavior and attachment. Babies and young children need to hear the sound of a human voice, not the jingle of a stuffed toy. Babies need to find comfort in people, not machines.

Older children need to spend more time with adults and fewer hours glued to a television or a computer screen.

Middle school and high school students need more supervision than can be provided by an occasional check-in call with their parents.

Lynette Long

The lack of involvement by either parent not only puts an undue stress on the custodial parent, but it is likely to create a deep sense of abandonment and anger in the child.

The reality is many of our children are parented by machines and feel less and less connection with their parents and, consequently, humanity.

The television is the baby sitter, the computer the social meeting place and the cell phone the touch point. Machines might keep our children entertained and allow us to parent our children remotely, but machines by their nature are cold, detached and place no value on human life.

Children need love to grow up to be healthy adults, and you can’t get that from a television, a video game, an iPod or a computer. There is no substitute for human contact and until we change the way we parent our children, no amount of security or surveillance will protect them.

Lynette Long is a licensed psychologist in Chevy Chase, Md., and the author of 20 books including “The Handbook for Latchkey Children and Their Working Parents.”

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11 Responses

  1. Thank you for that Lynette. I can’t tell you how many troubled homes I’ve visited where pre-school have for companionship an overwhelmed mom and Jerry Springer on the big screen TV.

    • I like your article, you just didn’t go far enough. People seem to have kids now because they think they should or because they think they can use them, not because they want them. And discipline has been shot out the window. They scream and holler when someone corrects their kids but they refuse to do it themselves for fear of going to jail. We need to get back to good down home values and lose the soccer mom mentality.
      Take the kids and dump them off with someone else they don’t have to bother with them and let the schools deal with the mess they have made of their kids and punish anyone that tries to correct their behavior.
      Women need to unite yes but not just on the home front but on major issues also. Too long have they sat back and watched the world go by thinking it will take care of itself well “look where we are now”.
      Men are not the dominate species here. But for some reason women have let them run our lives. They try to tell us to stay out of the major workings of politics, why?
      Look to the workings of the world. Where else on this earth, with what other animal does the male of the species take the lead? NONE.
      Do you think women would declare war on another country because they don’t think the same way?
      In nature if a cub gets out of line does the female give it a time out? No she cuffs him and he never does it again……

  2. Beautifully written, Lynette.

    I postponed my career to stay home with my children, but it was a battle royal. The mom to mom network that sustained other generations was destroyed. It was infuriating to have persons that I hardly knew calling me to pick up a sick child during school hours. Again, I barely knew their child. I usually told them that their sick child wanted to see them, not me.

    The utter selfishness of these women, first to their kids then to me, was unbelievable. Many of those children became runaways, went into drugs, succumbed to sexual abuse, and graduated high school in their twenties. There are very few grandparents of my generation in that socially engineered community.

    My children were ridiculed because they did not wear designer labels, and my refusal to slave for other mothers led to spite and smear campaigns. On the other extreme, I had to eventually leave my apartment on Sundays as the working parents would “drop in” for mothering – FOR THEMSELVES.

    Motherhood has been seriously undervalued. Nothing is harder, more challenger, and more important than raising another human being. We have settled for “survival” over thriving, and even that is now compromised.

    The world looks to America for social leadership. Europe is now choosing to make the errors of the 70s and 80s…but without a true democratic base from which to amend and correct such errors.

    I hope Dr. Long’s article is the beginning of loud and clear leadership in this area.

  3. Well said. Once read a great quote that said something to the effect that, if you want to find a society toxic to children, look no further than America. Gadgets have replaced community–and parents, too–and that is the shame of it.

  4. I know my comment above looks like I’m blaming mom, too but I think we must be very careful about where that can lead. Not that long ago schizophrenia was believed to be the result of a cold and distant mother. In the scene above let me ask, where was dad?

    Implying that a child does not really need his/her mother to raise them is a real devaluation of one of women’s roles but it is not her only one. I have however, known children who were fine when raised in home where there was consistant affordable help with the children.

    I really enjoyed staying home with my children and I know that it was that consistant stable beginning that gave them a sturdy foundation. I was able to do this because I was married to a wealthy man until I wasn’t anymore. This same wealthy man then used that money to pay for legal manuverings that left me, still breastfeeding my youngest, without child support for most of their childhood.
    Whether by necessity or a perceived “selfish choice” women today often have to work outside the home for money. Would Sarah Palin have been able to accomplish what she has without the ‘first dude’? What about Hillary’s village? Parents need the support of safe, reliable and affordable childcare, not just for their sake but for the sake of society in general. Even those without children need to be part of the village, it is those well-raised children that will be taking care of you when you can no longer care for yourself.

  5. […] Human contact lacking in today's push-button parenting « Free Us … […]

  6. Nice post, very informative. I got scared a little bit, it’s really hard to raise a kid now a days, that’s why I’m very hands on when it comes to my daughter, I see to it that I talk to her and attend to her needs and we even play together, we have a site with games on it, I wanted to share this with parents who has a website and wants educational games attached to their page. it’s at http://www.YourKidsClub.com

  7. Dara aka LadyBard.

    “my refusal to slave for other mothers led to spite and smear campaigns.”

    Really!

  8. When Michelle Obama, mother of daughters, insults Hillary Clinton as a woman who “Can’t run her own house,” she absolves the mothers of these violent teens of responsibility for their conditions.

    • Ms Shelly just likes to hear herself talk- I have never heard her tell anything that made sense. Did you hear her speech about the olympics- she is as bad as her hubby – everything is about them! But back to your comment- you are right !

  9. Hi I am not much into reading, but one way or another I got to read lots of articles on your website. Its amazing how appealing it is for me to visit regularly.

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