Imagine a timeline spanning history. A straight line.

And now imagine a teenager walking this timeline… passing the various forms of media and technology along the way up to today.

Cliche as it may be, the imagery is simple. Over the years since the advent of the printing press and radio, on to television and through vinyl albums, 8-track tapes, cassettes, cd’s, dvd’s, ipods, 3-D movies, internet, smart-phones and all the latest forums of social media… our teenagers have progressively existed in a world, from the first moments they wake each day, where their minds and hearts are relentlessly bombarded by exhausting stimulation and powerful influences.

Before it all, our children were influenced only by their immediate environments… the trees, the sunshine, their families, day to day survival obligations and the occasional exposure to neighbors and peers in school. Their ego’s, identities and skill-sets influenced only by those closest to them and the natural world around them… mixed gently with their own biological inclinations.

But today is a very different story. Today, our children’s characters are over-exposed to influences that threaten their footing, personalities and well-being every minute of every day… and we’re seeing our children’s immune systems taxed in ways that go far beyond catching the “flu”.

What’s happening to our children is shear exhaustion. Their immune systems are spent, working overtime to manage the relentless stresses and stimulation; their style, language and interests more easily influenced by exploding exposure to pop-culture; and they’re more sensitive and anxious than ever because of the uncertainties of a precarious world they simply can’t avoid hearing about…

And as a result of such over-stimulation and weakened immunities, we’re seeing in our teens:

– Shorter attention-spans from endless media jumping.

– Weakened self-esteems born from comparisons to unnatural standards of beauty.

– False over-confidence… like the characters in videos, television and movies.

– Increased fighting and violence spreading like the flu from media… infiltrating our already impressionable adolescent population.

– “Why bother, what’s the point” attitudes stirred by constant streams of negative world events leading to rises in risky behaviors.

And on and on and on.

But all hope is not lost. The strength of youth remains as available as ever… but only if we can find a way to rebuild our children’s immune systems and remind them that THEY CHOOSE what words, images and messages get inside and behind their defenses.

Somehow we need to teach them how to be near influences, but not be so influenced by them.  We need to coach our children how to listen to music, watch television and movies, look at magazines, hear the news, surf the web, play video games,  and how to witness all the glorifications of violence, superficiality, materialism and unhealthy gender norms… without being defined by what enters their eyes and ears.

Somehow, we need to educate our children how to be entertained by entertainment and informed by newsworthy realities without being overwhelmed by them.

And somehow, we need to reclaim the throne of the most influential influence in our children’s lives (which means putting our own exhaustions aside) while at the same time, cultivating in them the knowledge that their greatest asset is their own sense of self.

At this point, it’s fairly obvious that there’s no real way to protect our children completely from unhealthy or damaging influences, but if we can strengthen our children’s resistances to the powerful forces around them, then they’ll be far better equipped to make the healthy choices we want them to make… from their own consciences, rather than from the collective conscience of an irresponsible, yet wildly entertaining (and occasionally scary) media.


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