Influencing Children

Yesterday I covered the culture of fear that has been created by politics and the news media and how that affects parenting and the brain development of children. Today we’ll talk about how social media and advertising combine to create an entirely new set of forces that are 608 Relax and Succeed - You decide who you areshaping your children’s minds in ways that have never been seen before. Some of it is exciting and awesome. Some of it is troubling and dangerous.

Again, it’s important to remember how different the world is than just a short time ago. A surfable smartphone didn’t exist until 1996 but due to capability and production limits they weren’t really in our consciousness until about 2001. Facebook was created in 2004, and Twitter in 2006 (even Google was just getting started in 1998), so at the time of this writing none of the people who’ve grown up with these influences are even adults yet so researchers can’t study the effects.

I heard a stat the other day that either this year or last year, 90% of the photos taken in history had been taken that year. That is a huge indicator of how incredibly important cameras have become. I have maybe 50 photos in total of me from a baby to age 25. Some friends whose parents were more technically motivated used cameras more often and they would have more, but it was expensive processing pictures back then very few people went crazy. But the fact that 90% of photos were taken last year shows how insanely different the numbers are today. A child will have more photos taken of them in a month than they would have had in a lifetime. And so that lens—that eye—becomes one of the eyes they understand they should pay attention to.

How this plays out is that if you’re talking to someone and you hold your camera up to take a photo, they’re quite likely to mug for you, or give you their best angle. So just the very appearance of a camera changes the social setting and people interrupt their human conversation for a machine-based ego-focused interaction. We all see this with text messages 608 Relax and Succeed - The most precious giftwhen we’re having lunch with a friend as well. It’s now common for people to not look at or pay attention to their tablemates for large percentages of their time at the table.

What this does is get the kids who are watching believing that phones are more important than people because that is exactly the behaviour everyone is actually modelling. So what I’m seeing now is kids who will choose to look at a camera lens or cell phone screen instead of looking at the people they’re with. So rather than learning how to socialize and read facial and body language cues, instead they learn how to look down and spend time in a place that exists only in their imagination—a place called cyberspace.

It’s very important for parents to remember that we all live where our consciousness is. So if you’re sitting on a beautiful beach alone thinking about how 10 years ago you were on this beach with a love you have since lost—despite all of the pleasures available on the beach today, the person will be sad because in their consciousness they are reliving 5 years ago and comparing it to today.

608 Relax and Succeed - We are living in a worldThe same is true for kids except they travel less in time and more in space. I walked to school with all of my neighbourhood friends. Kids today primarily get driven or take the bus so they can have friends that live two buses away. So they might be physically at home because their parents never let them go anywhere without some detailed plan, but in reality they’re meeting their friends in cyberspace. The important part about that is that if your kid can always meet their friends in cyberspace then, in a way, it’s like their friends are present for every single thing that happens in your house. Technology has changed society much more than people currently recognize.

Privacy for all intents and purposes no longer exists. By 16 every kid knows your email can be hacked, friends can choose to share photos they were never supposed to share, there’s revenge porn sites and robots are crawling through everything you write and post in an attempt to understand you well enough to help advertisers sell to you when you’re most vulnerable. There’s even video and audio systems that detect crying so that they can respond. Do we really want robots responding to crying?

I’m hardly anti-technology. I was the first person I knew with a digital watch, the first with a programmable calculator and both a video recorder and a video camera. I was the second person I knew to get a computer and I started a large BBS system before the internet even existed. So I’m pro-technology in many ways. But with all things we must weigh the advantages against the costs. And the costs of social media are almost as high as the costs of advertising.

608 Relax and Succeed - If you find yourself constantly tryingSo where politics and the news media lead new citizens to be unnecessarily afraid, advertising leads them to be insecure. Secure people don’t need a product to fix their insecurity. So when I was young everyone thought teeth should be teeth-coloured and so no one would have put harmful chemicals in our mouths to whiten them. But today kids will feel stressed if their teeth aren’t unnaturally white. Go backwards and my mother never knew mouthwash until she was older. And her mother never even knew tooth-brushing or that breath should smell “fresh” until she was ten years old because advertising had not created that insecurity yet. The entire tooth-brushing fresh breath movement emerged out of advertisers testing the idea of whether or not a fear could be created and leveraged into a product. Obviously it worked and now every kid has a huge list of things to feel insecure about.

Advertisers need you to think the jeans you bought last year aren’t good enough for this year. Same with your hair style and your shoes and your purse and your car. There is always a new way to be acceptable or impressive to others. There’s always something new to buy. But do you see what this is telling the brain? The brain is being told that the person is not okay being who they are they must be someone else in order to be accepted, which in other terms means that the love they receive is conditional. It is based on their alignment with what advertisers have deemed acceptable rather than being loved just for who you are right from birth. The idea that you have to add to or change yourself before you are worthy is as unfortunate as it is dangerous.

608 Relax and Succeed - If a mother values herselfYou don’t need different jeans or a different hair colour. You don’t need different music or to like different movies. You just need to love yourself. Because you’re parenting when you’re living. Just like those kids watch smart phone screens because you do, they also worry about their hair and weight because you do. So if you really want to parent in an amazing way that will strengthen and support your kids to be all they can be, then stop worrying about the bad things that might happen or the judgments they might face, and instead focus on realizing the natural greatness that lives within yourself, because that will teach your children to look for that strength and capability within themselves. And that’s all they need to do. Because it’s always there waiting.

Your kids live in a sea of other people telling them who they should be. Be the one person who stands out for not telling them who it would be good or positive or healthy to become, and instead just ask them who they would most like to become and then help them do that. Because if Michelangelo’s father had had his way his son would have been a bricklayer and we wouldn’t have the incredible Statue of David. So don’t get in the way of your kid’s David. Don’t help frighten them into being small and worried. The world is too awesome for that and it will only be made more awesome by the contributions of you and your children.

Thank you.

peace. s

Cyber Space

You get that you’re human right? A Modern Human. A.K.A. a Homo Sapien. You’re an animal. You are part of nature. You not only need to eat food from the Earth in terms of plants and animals, but you also need water. You mostly are water. You walk on the Earth and you breathe air. You are a physical creature in a physical world.

494 Relax and Succeed - T he human spiritThe virtual world has only existed for a short time. I remember in the late 1980’s listening to CBC radio when they interviewed a guy who was explaining that the internet was going from being a military/scientific system/experiment to one that the public and private sector could use using something called a browser that converted the internet’s language into fonts and pictures so that we could search through that virtual world. It all sounded very Star Trek, but instead it was more a social revolution that happened.

You can reach more people than ever in an instant, and yet you’re less connected overall. Why? Because you’re living in the virtual world too large a percentage of your time. You need to get back to nature because you aren’t virtual, but you are a part of nature. And if you do get back to nature please don’t do this: some friends went out to the lake. They did the usual water skiing, going for a walk in the woods, trampolining, barbequing, swimming and finally a fire outside. When they showed me the pictures I couldn’t help but notice that another friend of theirs was in every photo, but she was never involved in the activity. She was always hunched over her phone. She wasn’t on the boat. She was where she was on her phone. She wasn’t in the forest. She wouldn’t have smelled the smells or seen the hummingbirds. She was somewhere else. She had unwittingly created distance between herself and her friends because they were in the forest and she was lost in cyberspace.

You can read the latest literature on how pine and spruce trees give of pheromones that calm you, or you can watch a documentary about the health benefits of outdoor exercise, or you can listen to an expert talk on the radio about the off-gases created by decaying plastics in our home and how much more dangerous the air is indoors versus the stuff outside our doors. But all of that is outside stuff. That’s other people’s studies and science. And sure, it’s great that it’s there. But you have to start trusting you. You have to stop asking Harvard how much water you should drink and you should trust that, after a million years of evolution, the sensation of thirst obviously means something.

494 Relax and Succeed - This is a communitySo don’t go into nature because I say so or because some expert says so. Go selfishly. Go spend time in nature and feel your connection to the things around you. They say for most trees, as far as they go out above is how far they go out below. Same for height. So when you’re walking through a forest, you’re literally walking inside it. It is above you for 20 meters and below you for 20 meters. And every bit of it is alive. Even a tiny piece of dirt will be teeming with microbiology. So spend time feeling that and then tell me you’d rather play more Candy Crush. You won’t need me to recommend it. You’ll remember you’re an animal and you’ll feel good. You’ll be able to sense those pheromones. You’ll feel the air’s freshness. You will be surrounded by life. And that profound quality will strum the same chord within you. And then no one will have to tell you to visit nature regularly. You’ll want to. Because it feels so good.

You will feel your addictions tug. You’ve trained your mind to be A.D.H.D. so you’ll feel the tug of want as your brain pleads for a fix of your phone. Just one text. Just one look at the weather or Twitter or Facebook. But those will soon die down as you learn to just re-shift your thinking back toward appreciating what’s happening around you. Forests in the tropics can grow a couple feet a day. That means if you lay there in a hammock for 12 hours, you’ll move a foot further off the ground as you lay there simply because the entire forest around you is alive and in motion. (For video see The Friday Dose #35)

Women with beautiful smiles and healthy bodies are moving down streets hunched over like they belong in a bell-tower in Notre Dame, their captivating eyes nearly crossed as they tap away at their tiny screens. Kindhearted, confident men walk, head down, oblivious to the world around them. And at least some of them are busy leaving comments on some website about how hard it is to meet people. Sheesh.

494 Relax and Succeed - think outsideThis isn’t a scolding. If you want to surrender your life to a two-dimensional pixelated digital stream then that’s cool with me. But it feels like calling an irradiated Big Mac the same as your Mom’s best holiday dinner. They’re both eating. But one is a pale imitation of the other. Same for your digital life versus actually being present with real people, animals or inanimate nature. The world’s a fascinating place if you’d only give it a chance.

Go meet your neighbours. Go actually touch a tree. Hug one. Look closely at the differences between leaves. It’s autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The leaves are changing. Soon the streets will be lined with leaves of gold. Walk in them. Listen to them. Throw them into the air. Stop wanting to be somewhere else and be fully where you are. Do that, and you will know the salvation that people come to me for. Do that and you will feel reconnected to the very source of your existence. And there is no piece of technology that can give you that.

peace. s