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“You’re Smarter Than That!” A Necessary Mantra for Today’s Parents

“You’re Smarter Than That!” A Necessary Mantra for Today’s Parents

“You’re smarter than anything you see on TV,” I liked to tell my sons. From the time they were little until they left for college, I wanted them to get the message that they are highly capable wondrous beings in charge of their own minds. They can interpret well anything they see and hear in mass media, because, they are smarter than that!

“I know you can think of a better ending… ” of a cartoon, a TV program, a movie or a video game. We played the “alternative ending game” until the end of high school. As they matured, so did their sophistication of understanding narrative, plot, and the director’s influence on an outcome of a film. “It’s fun to think and you can certainly think.”

As preschoolers they could conjure a cleverer jingle to the commercials they sang to each other over morning cereal bowls. As they got older, you might hear me cajoling, “You’re as creative as Stephen Spielberg-or even more so. Did you know that?” “Notorious Big has nothing on you guys. You could devise clever raps, if you wanted.” “Sure John Williams is a genius-he uses his talents, just like you do.”

I justified all this mommy hyperbole as a way to put me on an even playing field with the big guns. After all, I was up against a giant industry-culture that peddled its goods 24/7 with sophisticated brainwashing techniques to keep my boys beholden to them-an industry-culture who didn’t know them, didn’t care about them as the precious individuals I knew them to be-it only cared to lure them into the world of the Internet, video games, or the latest tech tool, ensuring they become robotic consumer adults, preoccupied with the trivial, not interested in anything beyond themselves.

Well guess what? I wanted my sons to become creative, self-actualized, emotionally healthy, stable adults, capable of contributing to a positive future. And I knew that could only happen if my husband and I were constantly vigilant, continually a nag for expanding their life beyond the world of the screen. They wouldn’t grow into their optimal selves with anything less.

I was at war and I knew that each and every day. Now with my sons being those self-actualized kind, amazing adults I dreamed of, I giddily realize that I won the war. Sure, I lost a few battles along the way-they played violent video games at friends’ houses, for instance. But in retrospect even some of those battles I won over time. They finally admitted how boring they thought violent video games were and preferred sports or strategy games, instead. YES!

“What do you want more than anything else in the world?” When I ask parents that question, they usually first respond-“For my kids to be happy… To lead a good life, to find fulfillment.” Something along those lines. They don’t answer:

“I want my child to become a video game addict.” Or “I want my child to grow up depressed and suicidal.” Or “I want my child to be the world’s greatest bully.”

No. Parents want what’s best for their children. Period.

Yet, the link between screen overuse and child self-identity may not be directly evident, but it is there, nonetheless, as clear as summer sky. It’s so worth all the time, energy; all the boundary setting with screens and talks afterward when boundaries are crossed. It’s so worth attending to how our children think about themselves as smart, creative people in relation to their relationship with screen technologies. For when we do, we give them the great gift of discernment for media matters. And that serves them well as children, as teens, and for the rest of their lives. Case in point:

Kyrie Irving, NBA star believes the world is flat. You may have heard. What may be news to you is that middle-school science teachers are pulling their hair out trying to convince their students that Mr. Irving is dead wrong-and they are losing this battle.

One teacher “says he tried reasoning with the students and showed them a video. Nothing worked. ‘They think that I’m part of this larger conspiracy of being a round-earther. That’s definitely hard for me because it feels like science isn’t real to them.”‘

These students don’t think they are smarter than Kyrie Irving-they don’t even think their science teachers are smarter than Kyrie Irving. And it sure seems like they don’t believe anyone is smarter than to Kyrie Irving when it comes to our planet’s shape.

Want to make sure your kids don’t fall for such nonsense found all too regularly in our media-saturated world?

Make family media literacy an every day priority and “Your smarter than that!” your mandated mantra. Believe me, you’ll win this war that way. I guarantee it!