Don’t Surrender Your Kids To A Screen-Shaped World

Why do we accept the dominant narrative that our kids live in a different world?

An October 2019 article by Julie Jargon in the Wall Street Journal claims to help parents better understand their other-worldly teens. It’s called: “Teens Explain Their YouTube Obsession (Because Adults Don’t Get It)”. The embedded video says: “Teens Explain YouTube (So Listen Up, Grown Ups)”.

Like so many articles today, this one suggests that we are like the dumb parents in movies where their much smarter kids have to rescue them. We’re clueless, right? But, thankfully, we have the Wall Street Journal here to help us understand our kids. Whew!

And why don’t we understand them? Because, as Jargon says, this is “a generation of kids that has been raised on YouTube.

One high school girl uses YouTube to go to sleep. She likes “the info-graphic show” because it has “random things in history or like serial killers and stuff like that and that’s just neat to watch.” Okay, yes, it might be hard to understand our daughter if we let her put herself to sleep every night with a screen where she’s hearing about neat things like “serial killers and stuff.”

Each of these teens said they watch YouTube at least an hour every day, in addition to Netflix, Hulu and other media. They said every kid they know in school watches YouTube at school, and that teachers can’t do anything to stop them.

They’re watching helpful things like hydraulic press videos where things get crushed, others where things are shredded, and still others that show things to do with slime. Jargon asks why they like it, and a girl says “It’s just satisfying!” (That word—satisfying—how well she has been taught by advertising what she should value: things that are “satisfying.”) When asked why it’s satisfying, the reflex response is, “I don’t know!” But then, an insightful girl says, “I think it just lets you not think about anything for a couple minutes.” But of course, “a couple minutes” ends up being hours and hours, every single day.

In the final question, Jargon wonders if they’ll migrate away from YouTube when something better comes along. The answer? “As long as the algorithm caters to what I like, I’ll be on YouTube.” With universal nods from the others. Hear that, Google? You’d better keep tweaking your algorithms so they pump out better videos, so your users keep spending more mindless hours on your platform. Otherwise, they’ll drop you like a leaf in the fall and click over to the next more excitingly mindless platform that comes along.

Mom & Dad, when you give your kid unrestricted access to screens, this is what you’re buying. You’re surrendering your child to be “raised” by their screens. That’s why we don’t know them anymore, and need the WSJ to tell us about their now-foreign world.

Teens being raised by YouTube. From The Wall Street Journal.

What these teens don’t know is that they are being played. Manipulated. Exploited. They are pawns in a scheme to trick them into mindlessly consuming more and more content so they’ll continue in an endless dopamine-fueled pleasure loop. Then, they’ll know how they’re supposed to think, what what they’re supposed to buy, how they’re supposed to dress and decorate themselves, and ultimately, who they are. Finally, they’ll learn how to build their own families in the same unintentional way. All in the service of giant tech corporations and their media industry friends who want to continue their hockey-stick-shaped growth.

It’s the prophetic vision of WALL-E, unfolding more every day.

Here’s the problem. A life of constant entertainment doesn’t end well. With the exponential growth of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix, we have a correlated growth in anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. Organizations like RemedyLive save kids who have been “raised by YouTube,” by fighting the life-and-death battle for their hearts and minds when they no longer have a reason to live.

Parents, it’s up to us to reject this destructive narrative. Our kids live in the world we intentionally provide for them. We can form a counter-culture in our homes. We can stop living like everyone else, and make purposeful choices that will help our kids know who they are from the Source, and live with purpose to become all God made them to be.

How do we do that? In Chapter 12 of my book, I show how to create a mission document — a foundation for purposeful living in our screen-saturated world. As parents, we form the culture for our families that we all participate in together. We make it attractive, interesting, and focused on what matters. But most importantly, we make it not optional. We’re the parents. It’s not “hey kids, whenever you are done with your games and phones and YouTube, let’s have dinner together, or go and serve somewhere together.” We set the family priorities, and we make them happen.

The result of a non-optional family mission? We no longer need the WSJ to interpret our kids for us. We know them, because we are raising them, not YouTube. Our kids know who they are, and that they are loved and have such an important purpose that they don’t have time to waste on hours of mindless entertainment.

There are families that are going phone-free. Who never allow screens in bedrooms. Who delay phones until their kids have jobs and can drive and pay for them themselves — if they’re already succeeding in every other area of life. There are families that are rolling back the incursion of screens.

You can too. You can. Really! I’d love to help you. Please contact me if you’d like help finding your way back.

And if you appreciate this post, please share it with your friends in whatever way you find most effective.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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