Change begins with parents

One of the slides shown by Kartchner during his presentation to area parents about internet safety.

This is the second of a two-part series about the dangers of social media and online addictions. The first part was printed in last week’s edition of The Preston Citizen.

More than ever, children need to be seen, to be heard and to be loved, parents were told on Jan. 27 at a parent meeting regarding screen addictions.

Collin Kartchner, founder of Save The Kids based out of Utah, spent the day in Preston and Dayton, talking with students at both high schools and junior high schools in the county about how to handle the negative effects of being online.

Researchers have identified negative effects of screen addictions in children as young as just a few months old, state news articles and research shared by Kartchner at the meeting. He said the data warrants calling the problem a public health crisis, affecting toddlers to young adults.

Because of this, France passed a bill last year banning smart phones from schools nationwide. Some doctors are refusing to treat depression and anxiety in teens unless the kids are completely off social media. Researchers note higher rates of biting in toddlers and frustration as they fail to engage their parents. And that’s where any change must start, said Kartchner: with parents.

Parents are usually the source providing the devices used to access online social media and gaming. Parents are often just as “addicted” to their devices as they claim their children to be.

“Now that I’m a teenager I have never felt more distance, because I can’t get my mom and dad to get off their phones, to ask me about my day or talk to me about my feelings. I’ve never felt more uncared for,” one 13-year-old told him.

The answer, he believes, is to “first, save ourselves and reconnect with them. Put the phone in a drawer, grab that little human and ask her how her day was and as she does, try to not even blink,” he said.

“We can’t (save our kids) until we first save ourselves. We as adults and as parent have to break free from our screens and dependency on social media addiction. We have to start … modeling media behavior for our kids, who don’t hear us, but see us.”

He also encouraged parents to teach from example that “it is okay to show the world that we are not ok. Sometimes the day just sucks. We can share that,” he said.

Kartchner also urged parents to:

• Creating spaces where kids can be kids, even in their own home.

• End lawn-mower parent habits. Unlike helicopter parents,” who constantly hover around their children, lawnmower parents “just mow through their children’s challenges.” These parents deprive their children of critical learning experiences.

When kids do find themselves involved in destructive media (ie: cyber bullying, pornography, etc), Kartchner advocated listening.

“Recognize that you gave them the gadget the allowed the filth into their lives. So compliment them on having the courage to say they’ve seen porn and ask for help,” he said.

Then, instead of talking, he urged adults sit with kids and merely encourage them to “tell me more.”

He also suggested civil engagement.

“It is time we start talking to the technology education companies that have duped school boards and administrators that into the notion that screen-based education is only for the child’s benefit,” when the research is starting to prove otherwise, he said.

He also suggested that it is time that parents “stand up to the big tech companies that are creating products and games and apps that are deliberately manipulating and exploiting our kids all for obscene profit.”

Additional information can be found by joining #SavetheKids effort at tinyURL.com/savethekidstoday.

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