March 5, 2024

Are we Listening to our Children? ~ Linda Maria Jones

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My oldest child is on the cusp of becoming an adolescent.

That scary transition from child to adult. He looks a lot older than he is. People sometimes think he is a teenager, and as adults are sometimes suspicious of teenagers, that makes me worry.

What do you see when you look at a group of young teens?
Do you see defensive behavior?

And do you see what lies beneath it?

Young people trying to express themselves and trying to be heard. Trying to find their own path, all whilst yearning for the approval of peers and searching for recognition in the world around them.

The criticism teens often face is at times overwhelming. I see it a lot online, but I know it happens everywhere. In conversation, within families, at school, and so on.

There is too much criticism and not enough praise.

Why do we do this?

Each generation hears similar voices from the previous one.

“In my day children didn’t have any rights.”
“I used to be beaten with a stick until I listened.”
“In my day we walked to school through avalanches and landslides without complaining.”
Okay, slight exaggeration in the last one, but you get the idea.

One morning, an article came up on my newsfeed, written by a mother, about her 12-year-old daughter. She described her daughter scrolling through her phone, unable to lift her head and see the world around her. She then went on to describe her daughter as the emblem of a terrible generation of kids. Kids who lack sense, awareness, and integrity.
She belittled her 12-year-old daughter and then published it all over social media for everyone to see.

And then came the comments.

“Kids are terrible today, the worst they’ve ever been.”
“Parents are terrible these days, the laziest they’ve ever been.”
“In my day….’”

But seriously.
No wonder teens are defensive and often feel alienated.
And did no one notice the irony of it all?
That instead of talking to and listening to her daughter, this mother posted all the negative thoughts she had about her on social media.

This kind of attitude toward the younger generation is probably what causes some of the detachment in the first place.

Do you know what happened when books were first available to the public? People were told about various ailments that could be caused by reading, the most extreme being that one could go blind.

Reading novels in particular was seriously frowned upon by older generations, and women in particular were thought to be at high risk of not being able to tell the difference between fiction and life.

Radio was another worrying invention—in the 1920s, Jack Woodford, a writer of pulp fiction, said that radio broadcasts were “brainless diversions that erode listeners’ ability to think, inquire, and judge.”

And as for television, well those square-eyed zombies have not turned out too badly after all.

So here I am in 2024 defending social media, the online world, and our teens involvement in it all.

Technology moves does time. It always will.

A true addiction to social media (or to anything) is obviously bad. But most of the teens I know are not addicted. They use and enjoy it, yes, but they also go out to the beach, surf, skate, hang with friends at cafes, draw, and go shopping, and so on. Sure, they take pictures of their activities and post them. And they chat and share with their friends online.

As do many adults.

Not too long ago my eldest son showed me something on TikTok; it was a meme about how parents think every online friend is a monster. The sharing was spawned by me asking 500 questions about a new online friend he had. So, I had a look.

Most of the comments were from young teens:
“My parents never listen to me.”
“I have to hide so much from my parents.”
And so on.

Soon after that, I saw comments on a Facebook post, this time written by a parent whose 14-year-old daughter was spending too much time on her phone. She was looking for advice, and this was the advice she got:
“Look through her phone.”
“Turn off the WiFi.”
“She is not old enough to make her own decisions.”

Not one person on the thread suggested talking to her daughter, or showing interest in what she was doing.

The young people of our world are largely unheard.

Yet they are our hope, our future.

They are the ones who will build the world that will be in 50 years time, and their children will be the ones who keep paving it forward.

We parents often talk about how our children don’t listen to us.
But maybe it’s time we started listening to them.


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