From the Womb to the Web

Barbie dolls, video games, designated nap times and carefree innocence is what most recall when they think about life prior to the stress filled adult world that college introduces. It was a kinder time where a child’s only true concern was whether or not they would be able to go over their friend’s house after school to play. Sadly, it seems that those times so cherished by college age adults might very well be lost upon the youth of today.

With the ever-expanding influence of the media and the online Internet-based devices that allow individuals to view such influences, children nowadays seem to be skipping right from the crib to adulthood without so much as a brief time in childhood bliss. Not only is this a pattern that has escalated in the past decade, but it could very well be a trend unintentionally spun on by their parents and guardians.

The kids of today are usually bought extravagant electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets, which parents buy with the pure intentions of supplying the child with a source of entertainment. Not to mention the added draw of being able to put educational applications on the devices and the security a parent would be able to feel knowing their child could contact them for help when needed by having a cell phone. However, by allowing children to have access to these tools they are also being exposed to the vast information the devices can access.

Junior Stephanie Millerz recalls the easy accessibility that such devices offer young children. “I remember one time my little sister, who was about seven at the time, was using the computer. She asked me for help with something because she couldn’t get to the website she was trying to get to, and when I went over to help her I saw that she couldn’t get to the site because she accidentally got access to a porn site. I had to tell my mom and later we had to sit her down and explain to her what she saw and how it was something that she shouldn’t have seen and how it was an adult thing,” said Millerz.

But why explain the situation at all? Why not just ignore it for both the child’s and the adult’s From the Womb to the Web sake? Millerz explains that “when kids are exposed to something that corrupts their innocence almost, it has to be talked about. Once you see something you don’t forget about it and if you don’t understand it you go looking for answers. I think parents have to talk it out with their kids so that the kids have a better understanding of what happened and won’t go seeking out that information again to try and understand it, which could lead them to seeing something else that they shouldn’t.”

According to Dr. Jamie Goodwin, a psychology professor at the University, the media is a force to be reckoned with. “It seems like a cop-out to blame things on the media and it certainly is not the only issue, but it is a fact that with increased exposure to sophisticated media technology comes with more exposure to all things ‘adult,’” said Goodwin. “It is so pervasive that it can hardly be avoided. What kids see on the TV and on the Internet provides a schema (an organized pattern of thoughts/behaviors) for what is cool, what is mature. Even if a parent makes an effort to limit their kids’ exposure, they will still be interacting with friends and classmates who perpetuate the schema.”

Goodwin goes on to mention that some parents will try to compensate by over-limiting their children’s exposure to “adult” things and not giving them information about sex, drugs and violence in an attempt to preserve their innocence. “This can ironically also cause problems because when the child eventually encounters situations in the real world which require education about these topics to make smart decisions, they do not have the information or the emotional maturity to deal with them,” states Goodwin

While the media and certain advances in technology may be key factors in the short-comings of childhood they are certainly not the only ones. In a recent posting in The Washington Post, journalist Petula Dvorak mentions how academic pressure and a changing globalized marketplace are aiding in the murder of childhood, or whatever remains of it. She goes on to explain that demanding scheduling and threehour homework loads begins the ritual of molding the youth into a miniature version of the creature they are to be in adulthood.

As Dvorak puts it “At one point in our history, kids were sent to work in the fields and watched their family members drop like flies around them from horrid diseases. Now we worry that drilling our kids in too much vocab before their karate belt test and after their piano lesson is causing them stress.”

It is very hard to ignore the evidence spurring on the fact that the effect of an actual childhood is being left to decompose, but according to sophomore Kimal Polendieker it is the actual parenting and upbringing that determines one’s childhood. “I know that I am the person I am today because of my parents and my grandma,” said Polendieker. “And yeah, it may sound cheesy but it’s true. They chose what was shown on TV when I was younger and they decided what stuff I could and could not do, who I could hang out with, everything. And that rule I think still applies today. If people are choosing to give their kids iPhone’s and stuff then they are opening their kids up to the possibilities that they might see something inappropriate, but ultimately that is all up to the parents and the methods they go through in raising the child,” Polendieker explains.

And while this may be true, there is no denying that parents are busier than ever with work, bills, payments, and the all-encompassing responsibilities that come with being an adult; all of which make it more difficult for the parent to intervene in the child’s life and might interfere with their ability to make the right choices, often times leaving those choices up to the child.

Goodwin said,“It is a problem in the sense that the pressures on children to act, look, and think like adults before they are ready to do so can lead to adult-like issues – emotional problems like anxiety and depression, and sideeffects like early sex and drug use. Kids want to fit in, and they also want to please their parents. What ends up being left out in this equation is them and their childhoods. As a whole, society is not being a great gatekeeper of childhood.”

Goodwin illustrates how this is not a hopeless cause and how there could be a solution. She contends, “Fixing the problem will require a cultural shift that is beyond any one person’s control, but I do believe that it is not a hopeless situation. Parents can help a lot. Rather than severely restricting access to TV or the internet, make sure you know what they are seeing, and be prepared to talk about it with them and explain it to them. Give them developmentally-appropr iate information to understand the messages they are given by the media and their friends, and the corresponding guidance about how to deal with the adult pressures they might experience in real-life,”

With this new stance on what it means to be a child, it is the job of society to determine whether this be one of positive or negative influence. Not for the benefit of society itself, but for those who are really the ones at stake here: the children.

IMAGE TAKEN from unplugreconnect.com