This week I want to continue last week’s discussion on mental consumption, but I want to talk about it as it relates to kids. Since children are only consumed by things they are exposed to, I am going to reframe consumption and call it “exposure” when referring to children. We must be careful what we expose our children to. Tv, video games, music, and social media can have negative influences on children. Influences we may not even fully understand the impact of before it’s too late.
Think about what you are exposing your kids to before you act.
On social media, I have watched kids sing along to “There are some hoes in this house” lyrics in the Cardi B song or kids look on while their mothers dance raunchy to different song such as the buss-it challenge. Now I myself am guilty of doing the buss-it challenge to promote my children’s books (no twerking occurred) but I quickly regretted following this trend. It felt out of place and weird for me. I only posted it on my stories and TikTok (I tried to delete from TikTok but couldn’t figure out how) because I was so ashamed afterwards for doing something so benign. Most of all I was ashamed because my younger son watched me practice a gazillion times dancing to this song for the video and as a result heard the lyrics. He also observed me watch the viral videos on social media to this song and kept saying “Stop playing that nasty song, mommy!” Even at five, my son had more sense than I to know what he should not be exposed to. But how many other parents fail to know or understand the same. People (myself included) get so caught up in social media that things we deem as cute can be harmful to our children in the same respect. We laugh it off when our kids repeat the raunchy lyrics or “act grown” not realizing we are setting a precedent for what we deem acceptable in the future. It only becomes out of hand for us when our kids become older and sexually promiscuous. Then, we wonder why and wring our hands pleading for help. I am not saying that this will definitely happen. Of course, there are other factors involved. I am saying it is very likely to happen if we continue to expose our children’s young and impressionable minds to the wrong things.
We must guard our children’s minds at all costs.
My 5-year-old son has been having some severe anxiety at night. Suddenly, he developed a terrible fear of the dark and of being alone about a month ago. He would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and we couldn’t understand where this was coming from. Finally, I asked him, what are you watching? I know he likes to go on YouTube and TikTok during his down time so I figured it must have been something from there. At first, my son denied that this was the source but eventually he admitted that he was watching videos on TikTok that showed scary things that happened in the dark. I innocently assumed that he was using TikTok to make videos and wanted to encourage his creativity but after learning this, I had to block his access to TikTok (he denied he was watching anything scary on YouTube). The effects of this exposure began to fade, and he became more comfortable being left alone downstairs if we went upstairs or sleeping in the dark (as long as the hallway light was on). This was up until two days ago. The fear returned and was more intense. I was puzzled again. My husband then told me that he caught my son watching scary videos on YouTube. He had to go ahead and block access to this as well. I am shocked that my son would expose himself to scary videos after being so scared. But I have to remind myself that he is a child and doesn’t know what is good for him. As his parent, I must remain vigilant and be that filter for him, regulating what he is exposed to. It’s easy to become busy as parents and for things to get overlooked. I don’t pretend to be a perfect and I know it’s hard to catch every little thing that your children are watching or listening to. However, if you notice some changes in your child/teen (no matter how small), make sure to ask questions. Don’t just ignore it or hope it will go away. Don’t pretend that there is nothing wrong because you don’t want to face the issue. Address whatever it is quickly and don’t allow it to linger. It’s important to be proactive so your children don’t fall victim to negative influences.
You control the narrative.
Exposure to things that you want your children to embody is important. Recently, I have been exposing my children to the arts. My husband and I bought my youngest son a drum-set because he has been pretending to play the drums since he was a toddler. He has been keeping our house noisy playing around with it every morning and making up songs to the beat. My oldest son, who is autistic, has been dabbling a little in it after watching his brother. I have been doing more activities with them after school such as puzzles and reading books alongside them. I have even been playing Roblox with my younger son allowing him to teach me so that I can see the kinds of games he plays. Some of them have been surprisingly intellectually stimulating requiring critical thinking and problem -solving skills; while others I have had to chastise him for playing since they involved weapons and injuring others. He knows that playing violent video games is not allowed and I have discussed with him the effects of such games.
The things that you expose your children to can shape their character. It can make them into somebody that they are not because as a result of constantly living in that simulation, it can make them more likely to want to carry out those things in person. Research has shown that exposure can have dangerous side effects on kids. Therefore, don’t underestimate the things your children watch and the effect it can have on them. If you want your children to model positive and healthy behaviors, you need to attempt to control what they are exposed to. Of course, you can’t control everything that happens outside your watch, but you can definitely control what happens under your watch. I wish I had been more diligent because maybe I would be getting a good night sleep right now instead of my son getting up every night screaming and turning the lights on. Right now, I am doing some exposure therapy on him where he is being asked to sit in a dark room while I use a timer to see how long he can go without panicking or asking to leave. We just started so we will see how this goes. FYI: I’m a trained therapist so don’t try this at home.
Please feel free to leave comments and share your own experiences and lessons you have learned. We all make mistakes as parents and should be comfortable sharing those mistakes so others can learn from them. I wish someone had warned me more about the internet and told me to wait a little longer before I got my younger son a cell phone or tablet. I may not have listened, but I may have at least paid attention to what he was watching more. Lesson learned and I hope to make better choices in the future for my children. I do hope that reading this article will inspire you to do the same.
Love and light,