Technology Takedown

The music invasion into our home was slow, but steady.  It started with the radio…mundane bleeped out pop music that, only a few years ago, occasionally mingled the word S**t or N***a into the lyrics.  How we got to where I am today is a bit like gaining weight slowly.  I didn’t see it happening, coming or even know it was here until it just hit me. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that the parade of purchases on I-tunes would show up in my email and I would just nonchalantly click “delete” on the notification and continue on with my work.  The purchases were made right under my nose.

So now…the lyrics I hear coming from my son’s bedroom are so offensive I can’t believe that any child of mine would play it.  I’m not trying to sound holier than thou or even judgmental, but the truth is, these words wound my soul…dig down into the core of me, not even just as a mother, but as another human being on the journey toward something in my life that is positive, fulfilling and genuine.  I am culturally wounded, socially numbed and wondering how I could have allowed this to happen.

My boy…my amazing, spirited, fabulous, kind young man is mumbling the words to one of his favorite musical artists under his breath and cleaning his room while singing.  (It’s hard to even write a few of these out.)

Get me another cup please.

I ain’t drivin’ home, so you can have my keys.

Got a bunch of tricks all hidden up my sleeves.

So I’mma get drunk, won’t be leavin’ till 3.

Yea, I got a reputation of gettin’ wasted.

Everything in sight, homie we ain’t tryna save s**t.

So no I can’t see b***h.

And frankly…these are the least offensive of the bunch.  This is being sung by my sixteen year old boy…the one who loved going on long walks in our neighborhood…who stopped to, with wide eyes, intently examine every yard gnome or dog on a leash with the joy of someone who believed that life just couldn’t get any better.

How we got here…I’m still trying to figure out.  On his Facebook page,his friends reference each other as n***a, like I use the word friend.  I’m not understanding how this has become so commonplace.  And I swear, I’m not an old lady. I’m upbeat, current and relevant.  I’m a 51 year old, single mom who dates, enjoys life, works a fulfilling job, hangs out with positive people.  I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I work out five days a week.  I practice yoga, I buy my clothes at Ann Taylor or the Gap and I drive a Toyota.  I’m about as cool…as far as moms go…as you can get.

And so…at times I feel as if I’m teetering some where between mama bear, beating on her chest and screaming at the top of my lungs or caving in and falling down into a crumbling pool of apathy.

Our children’s discoveries on the internet are akin to Alice down the Rabbit Hole.  They observe one site that leads deeper into another, and then to another, and then to another and slowly but surely they can, if we are not careful, become immersed in an underground world where parents simply don’t exist and some other committee of marketing gurus, commercial widgets and deeply disturbed men and women, engage them as their own…raise them to think, see and feel a certain way… so that the products they produce and the lifestyle they promote will keep him coming back time and time again.  They hammer away at our societal sense of decency, degrade our sense of worth, diminish the spirited light we have and pull us in for money, ego and frankly…I don’t know what else.  The distance between that world and the one I want to support and live in, often feels like a chasm so wide and deep I want to just throw my hands up and give in, give up and quit trying so hard to make a difference.  I know I sound like I’m paranoid or an overly dramatic alarmists, but the truth is, we are entering unchartered territory here.  The verdict is still out about how all this technology is affecting not just our cultural thoughts, but literally affecting the brains of the people who use it.

So…on a smaller scale, I realize I’ve got two years left before my boy  is technically on his own…what influence I have is fleeting even now, but I want him to feel the power of a home where sanctuary from all that external noise can be found…where he is safe to talk with me about this world he knows, but can recognize that it isn’t operating with his best interest in mind. I want him to know there is another world over here where he is valued, honored and held accountable for his decisions.

And I guess here is where I digress a bit and talk about me.  I’m a warm and fuzzy kind of person…a bit over the top on Kumbayah kind of love.  I believe that inherently we are all pretty good at our core and occasionally get off track…but that our higher self…the one that some may call God, Divine, Higher Power really does bring us back home to ourselves.  For some it may take more time than others, but we do eventually get back there.  (For some it may take an entire lifetime.)

So I struggle with being tough…it’s just not in my nature. I just keep thinking my son will eventually get it…like now…like figure out how all this ”junk” is contributing to the anxiety he often feels, the sadness he openly (and gratefully) shares with me and the sometimes (still infrequenty though) apathetic attitude he has toward school and his ambitions.

So, for me it comes down to securing that oxygen mask on myself.  What I know and believe is good for me, I know and believe will be good for him…and so…this past week I implemented a “Technology Takedown” in our house.

I’ve taken custody of my children’s computers and activated the parental controls…for the time being anyway…until they spend more time over here on the positive side of technology.  This inludes time limits on how often they use it. I could benefit from this as well.  How I have made this appealing (and it seems to be working so far), has been by offering family outings, meals out together, board game competitions (really…can you believe much fun a silly board game can be?), walks around the neighborhood and other just FUN stuff.  We are all hungry for these simple ole’ timey activities (my daughter referenced these activities as such) these days and have just forgotten how much fun and love can be exchanged within these precious times together.

We are going to learn how to use Facebook and Twitter responsibly… explore websites that engage them in a positive way.  I’m asking each of my children to be the “master” of my Facebook and twitter accounts for a month each.  I am using these in a very positive way and want them to experience how fabulous those channels can be in engaging people to do good in the world.  I’m going to prohibit language and music which offends the airspace which surrounds me and create a “negative-free” lyric zone.  No more ho’s, n****s and b****s will be marching through my kitchen while I’m trying to cook dinner.  I just can‘t take it anymore.  I’m feeling beat up, assaulted, downright exhausted and strangled by the onslaught.

What they choose to listen to, download and explore on their ipods is up to them.  Their room will be theirs.  But from now on, all purchases will need my approval…at least if they want me to pay for them.    I want them to feel the positive power of technology, emerge from the rabbit hole and move upwards…find space in the world around them where youtube is good and people are generally kind to one another.

I want to at least give that world a shot, too.

Then they will know, experience and be aware of the difference.  We can’t know sorrow without knowing joy.  We can’t know sun without knowing clouds.  They can’t know that what they are currently surrounding themselves with is negative and destructive until they know and experience the positive and uplifting elements that technology can bring to the world.   Then they can decide for themselves which master they will claim as their own.   Fully armed at that point, they will know and then be able to intentionally decide which route they want to take.

I was feeling as if the xbox, MTV, reality show world had my children hostage.  They courted them (and me) early on with their seemingly harmless nintendo ds, gameboy and telletubbies and eventually pulled them in to what feels like…all the way…out of reach…and apart.  I guess I let it happen, but now Mama’s got her oxygen mask and has gone in, armed, ready and prepared to take her baby cubs back.

What do you think about technology and its effect in your children’s lives?  How have you managed it?  What suggestions do you have?  What fears?  I’m asking, because I need to know as do others.  We are all entering unchartered territory…here.

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8 Responses to Technology Takedown

  1. Colette says:

    As a DJ at a “positive hits” station, I take comfort in the fact that my three year old would sing “Sing Hallelujah, I’ll forever sing to lift You up…” in the bath tub from a rock artist we play. Now that they’re in Kindergarten, (yes, Kindergarten!) things my husband and I are totally uncomfortable with have started to creep into their little innocent existence. 🙂 We just focus on keeping it heavy on the positive side and hope that by doing so, they’ll eventually choose less and less on the negative. From your post, it sounds like you’ve come up with amazing ideas already (which, by the way, I totally plan on stealing :). Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Rob says:

    Molly, this is a great, and courageous, post. To your question, I think the effect of technology, particularly electronic media, on our children’s lives is 100% negative. With that said, I think the rise in technology is only one-half of a particularly diabolical duo that plagues modern life for young people. The rise in technology has ushered in a decline in purpose, and THAT is where we can focus effort… unleashing the power of purpose.

    I TOTALLY support your idea of finding ways to unplug the machines and plug in to family. We all face the same struggle, and it IS a major struggle… it literally consumes my day sometimes… these conflicts and dilemmas that electronics cause!

    But we have to do more. We are all designed to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Until about 100 years ago, this wasn’t much of an issue because children and young people were integrated into our lives… our real lives… by necessity. What they did MATTERED. They put away childish things at 12 or 13, or earlier, and moved into the productive realm of society. Technology has absorbed our young people’s purpose while erecting a massive, segregating wall around them. What to do about it? It’s a confounding question! We should hold a conference on this topic because it is SO important.

  3. Rob…I am so with you on this. I appreciate your comments on purpose. It does seem as if the attachment to technology and the fantasy world it presents leaves our children (and others) with no sense of purpose. All I know is, I need to do what I can in the smallest of ways…and that’s influence the world I walk through and live in. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  4. Rob says:

    I was thinking of my days in the Navy and how much time and effort we put into what we called “electronic counter-measures” or ECM. We have entire legions of people working to achieve something called “spectrum dominance”. I was thinking that there must be some metaphor in THAT effort that applies here.
    Here is what I think… the airwaves out there were full of “enemy” energy… energy trying to bring us down. The whole goal of ECM was to use our ENERGY, i.e. something short of a kinetic weapon, to overcome the harmful energy directed at us. Sin waves vs. sin waves if you will. So ECM was a constant struggle… 24-7 of tweaks here, and adjustments there, trying to convert our finite energy into something that would nullify the bad stuff aimed at us. Adjustments to micro-frequencies mattered. Those little tweaks are the family board games, the walks around the neighborhood, and the meals cooked together! They are little, but they matter. It’s all in how we convert energy.
    My job was to make the energy. 2000 kilo-watts constantly pouring out of 3 screaming gas turbine engines. My buddies 40 feet above me put that energy through a transformation and slung it out a metal pole to fight the bad stuff headed our way!
    I was thinking of the idea of “energy conversion” this morning as we ate breakfast at Great Wolf Lodge. We were surrounded by TV’s and Christmas music was blaring in our ears. I thought I should “convert” that energy into something positive, so I started a great conversation with my kids about how we are surrounded by electronics, and what that means to us.
    As we sat there, the Christmas song “Feed the World” came on. I asked my 10 year old what he thought about that song and he said he thought it was pretty stupid. Then I told him what it was about. I told him about Ethiopia, and Somalia, and drought. The I had him turn around in his chair and look at the 25 foot long breakfast buffet… enough food to feed an army even though there were only 3 families in the place. It led to another good talk. Maybe I was too quick to say electronics are 100% negative.

  5. Greg Ward says:

    Molly,
    This is one of the many things we love about you! I read your post entitled “Technology Takedown” in its entirety and hung on almost every word. Furthermore, I tried to view it through your eyes. The simple fact of the matter is, we’re both the same basic age, we’re both parents that lead positive lives, and of equal importance, we promote positively around us as well! I can only imagine how you must have raised your children based on how seemingly wonderful they’ve turned out. (Meant only as a compliment in the highest regard). Our family’s respect for you is really quite profound! With that being said, I read a good portion of this to my daughter just a few minutes ago and then asked for her opinion. She’s now 16. When I asked her your question, “What do you think about today’s technology and its effect on your life?” She said, “You mean the lyrics to some of the songs right?” I answered, “Sure, the music.” Her answer was, “Some of the swearing in the songs is unnecessary and it kind of ruins the song for me.” Mainly because she doesn’t feel comfortable about repeating those particular words. She went on to say, if I really like the song I’ll sing it, but just remain silent during those “bad” parts. Kind of like live editing. (Bless her heart). In a nutshell, she doesn’t feel that it’s necessary. (That’s my girl 😉 I can also report that when Dad’s watching HBO or Showtime, she’ll sometimes yell from her Pink Girl’s Room downstairs, “Dad… could you PLEEEEEASE turn THAT part down?” LOL
    As you know, we raised ours with undivided attention beginning at a very early age, right up to the present. All of that steady attention and parenting in those early years was the best gift we could give as parents. Open communication every day as a family is paramount! Sure we’re busy with our full time careers, but when we get home we prepare delicious meals, eat together as a family and then the evening taxi service kicks in for all of those extra curricular. When the play rehearsals or dance lessons are over with, our car is sitting there in line with the heater running.
    Okay, so some of the music is “filthy” or “a work of the devil” as my late Grandma Brown used to say. And yes, if we watch movies either in the theater or on cable TV, we’re placing ourselves in danger of hearing some nasty language. In the end, we parents do possess the right to limit certain things inside our own home. When the kids grow up and move out, they’ll surely do as they please without any interference from us. In the meantime, I guess that all we can hope for as parents, is that our kids will know the difference between right and wrong as it comes their way. I am a lucky dad because my daughter still wants to grab a chocolate malt to go and go skip stones from the surface of a favorite nearby lake. (It’s only one of many father/daughter things that we enjoy together from time to time. We also like to go on river journeys, go swimming and/or snorkeling almost every night during the warm season. Now as Mayberry RFD as that may sound, the first thing the kids do is check their text messages as they’re getting dried off. I firmly believe that technology is here to stay and there is NOTHING we parents can do about that. Nevertheless, as you mentioned, we CAN interject some more peaceful activities in between times such as, “family outings, meals out together, board game competitions, walks around the neighborhood and other just FUN stuff.” Like my parents used to tell me, “There’s a time and a place for everything!” The iPods, smart phones and computers are no exception. In the end it’s your house, but your allowing each teen their room privacy is providing them an opportunity to make their own decisions. To prepare our teens for going out on their own some day, I believe they can NEVER start too soon learning about “A time and a place!”

  6. tracygrubbs says:

    hey molly. i found your blog thru my friend Christina Lewis and can really identify with this post. i have three kids, 19,17 and 15. we’ve had similar convos in our house about music that is degrading to people, with reality shows that are anything but reality, with tweets and tumblrs and facebook and all the things that will keep us all from real relationships if we let them. …but lemme not preach here. 🙂

    drawing boundaries for our kids while they are in our care, as they mature and form their own value systems is so important. and knowing how to do that is hard. i’m a bit of a softy, too and tend to see way more gray than black and white, so this has been a constant struggle for me. i want to fill my kids’ lives with beautiful positive things instead of pulling all the things i find ugly out and just leave a big gaping hole.
    i think this goes to what rob said in his earlier comment about purpose…and i totally agree.

    as for technology, i can remember my own mom saying ‘is that thing (our yellow rotary phone with a cord that was 89987987 ft long) growing out of your head?? you’ve been on it all night.’ or ‘young lady i better not hear those words “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” come out of your mouth again. that’s appalling.’ i rolled my eyes and complied (or not, but just learned to filter myself around her) but i also learned to think…i loved and respected my mom and even tho i was trying as hard as i could to separate myself from her and be ME, i filed her opinions, her values away to be integrated later.
    i hope the same for my three…

    thanks for your candor. and for having the guts to fight for your people.
    looking forward to reading more and hopefully meeting you soon.

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