Many Parents Think That This Is A Suitable Activity For Their Children, But They Couldn’t Be More Wrong
I first became aware of Jonathan Haidt back in 2007 when I read his book The Happiness Hypothesis. This was way before I began London Reel, but the book was a main factor in my decision to start meditating, quit my job as a banker, and start, what is now, London Reel.
Jonathan is an American social psychologist, author, and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and moral emotions, and he is the author of more than 90 academic articles, and three books.
He was recently named one of the world’s “Top 50 Thinkers” and his latest work The Coddling of the American Mind is a New York Times best-seller which explains how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure.
Jonathan believes that we have worked too hard to “coddle” the American mind. He also advocates for giving kids a lot more freedom in the physical world and a lot more restriction in the virtual world. What used to be called “helicopter parents” are now being called “bulldozer parents” because they are literally clearing the way for their kids so they don’t have to face challenges.
Social media, Jonathan says has played a large part in the increase of mental health issues in kids and young adults. We are seeing Generation X grow up with so many more problems than previous generations.
So if you are a parent with a kid or a nanny or teacher or anyone that care about how to help young people thrive in society, I think you will be very interested by my discussion with Jonathan!
Jonathan highlights two main points about childhood development. The first is that kids need a lot of play, especially unsupervised play. Unsupervised play is important specifically because it allows children to deal with conflict on their own rather than have an adult supervisor interfere.
Children have been largely deprived of this since the 1990s, but it’s very important. You can start by giving small amounts of unsupervised time and increase the amount as the child earns it.
If you’re a parent with kids in the 6-10 year old age range and are worried about the lack of supervision, Jonathan suggests getting them a device called the Gizmo Watch which your child can wear and gives them the ability to call three numbers and gives the parent the ability to track the location of the watch. Jonathan bought the device for his own 9 year old daughter and now allows her to make small trips on her own to the park with friends or down the street to get a snack.
This will greatly help give parents the piece of mind to allow their children to be self supervising so that the child can learn. Jonathan notes that since he allowed his daughter the freedom to have this type of unsupervised time she has become much more comfortable going into stores, crossing streets, and conversing with others. These are essential skills children need to be learning at this age.
Jonathan knows this concept can be incredibly hard for parents. He and his wife were so nervous about letting their daughter go out the first time, but he notes that, “as with all phobias, the way you get over a phobia is by gradual exposure, and when nothing happens, your fear subsides.”
Social Media Shouldn’t Be Considered Normal Play
For children, social media is not the same as normal play. When social media first came out, it was assumed that is was normal play because kids were hyper connecting with each other via social platforms. Jonathan first assumed that kids would develop incredible social skills because of social media.
However, this did not end up being the case. While you should strive to give your kids freedom in the physical world you really need to be restricting them in the virtual world. This is because the research shows a huge rise in depression, anxiety, and self harm right around the time social media comes into play.
When Jonathan talks with Gen Z and asks them if they think that being publicly shamed or bullied on social media has made them stronger and more likely to speak their mind or if it has made them weaker and more hesitant to express themselves. Overwhelmingly, they say the latter, that it has made them more fearful.
Kids do need to be able to communicate as part of development. Jonathan explains that using a phone for calling or texting is okay and hasn’t been shown to have any negative results. The real problem comes from how kids, especially girls, use social media as a platform; not to connect with an individual, but to talk to an audience, and even further to gage their worth based on what the audience thinks.
Your Child’s Age Really Matters When It Comes To Social Media
The official age a child can open an account on social media is 13, but this has less to do with safety and more to do with companies being able to use the data from a minor. Jonathan sees kids as young as 9 on social media which he thinks is completely unacceptable.
His goal is to keep social media out of middle school and to create a norm where teachers and principals urge parents to keep their kids off of social media. Middle School is hard enough as it is without adding social media to the mix. Ultimately, Jonathan knows that most parents don’t want their kids on social media, but parents eventually get pressure from their child to join or else they will be excluded by their peers because “everyone else is on it.”
Moral of the story is, send your kid out of play even if they might fall and cut their leg. Don’t send them into social media before they are 13 or 14 years old.
I hope you found this discussion to be helpful and eye opening. Parents should gain a better understanding of what social does and how it affects children especially theirs.
When it comes to your children’s social media is a powerful tool, but can lead to some major consequences.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored