SMA Friends and Families,
It almost seems a daily occurrence that something is reported in the news that poses yet another threat to our children, our communities, and our way of life. Most recently, an attack of our precious youth has been popping up on social media sites in the guise frightening but interesting creature called MOMO. This online apparition attempts to lead our children toward a dangerous path making them think it is a simple game, encouraging kids to run away from home, hurt themselves or commit suicide. This challenge is putting them at danger of being exploited, trafficked, or worse. This is just one example of the many negative factors of media influence, others include the direct marketing to youth of flavored e-cigarettes/JUUL and CBD products that are a proven addictive products with proven negative health and medical implications. More directly, our youth are constantly bombarded with examples of negative behaviors through social media, as well as the occasional cry for help by someone in need of professional mental health assistance. In addition to these, just the media reporting and seeming glorification of conflicts based on hate due to race, religion, gender/sexual orientation, politics and other societal concerns has a very negative impact on our youth during a time in their lives critical to the development of lifelong values and beliefs.
The question then becomes, “what can we do to either a) limit the exposure of these negative aspects in our society and media to our youth, or b) provide our youth with the skills and tools to be a discerning consumer that can distinguish between fact and opinion, information and propaganda, sales gimmicks and reliable evidence, deception and honesty.” My only answer to battling these negative bombardments in our lives and the lives of our youth is through constant education and discussion, and the development of open and honest relationships that allows for the ability to talk to each other about these issues on a regular basis.
Just the other evening, I spoke with my nine year old daughter during dinner about her friends at school, and the topic of MOMO reared its ugly visage. I was pleased to learn that she found the image associated with the challenge frightening, and as I know she doesn’t have her own social media, learned that one of her friends had shown her. We had a very frank discussion about MOMO and the challenge it was posing to kids, and we then talked about what she could say to her friends about it and how to let her teacher know. This reminded me of the discussions at dinner when I was a child, often led by my mother, around the topics that came up after watching TV shows like “All in the Family” or the violence depicted in shows like “The Three Stooges”. I look back on these dinner discussions now realizing the impact they have had on who I am as a man. The key was, we talked about things, like adults, and discussed the impact these influences may have. Although politics was generally not a discussion at our dinner table, my mother being a democrat and father a staunch republican, we did talk about issues, such as women’s rights, drug use in our society, smoking/tobacco, race and racism, among others. These discussions helped to allow me to make my own decisions based on logical reasoning rather than on outside/media influences.
To try and conclude this issue, I can only implore you all to help us develop discerning consumers of all the impactful influences bombarding our youth in this smorgasbord call life. Take some time during dinner, in the car on the way to and from school, and even as you tuck your teenager into bed at night and get to know what influences are impacting them. I strongly believe that they do want your guidance.
Thank you for trusting us with your children as we also try to develop their skills to be discerning life consumers.
SMA-LTC Frederick T. Fout, Head of School
“Knowledge … is the only guardian of true liberty.” – James Madison
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