Our children are in trouble. And we’ve led them to it.
This morning I stepped into my class and had a long talk with my wards about the image they are selling to those who are evaluating them.
I had to speak to them about ‘impression management’, a term I coined when I lectured a course at a local university and had to create some content for them. Impression management, as I defined it, is “actively managing or organizing behaviour in a sustained manner that would cause one to be evaluated as desired” (DSM, 2013). I explained to them that many persons engage in this practice without consciously organizing themselves but sub-consciously, since most of us want to ‘put our best foot forward’, we choose behaviours that would cause us to be viewed favourably.
Business entrepreneurs, media moguls, performers/ artists are just a few of the professionals that hire people to ‘market’ them successfully. Many of us tailor our image to suit whomever’s buying: your manager, the voting public, sometimes potential life partners.
The need arose to speak to them due to improper conduct that was observed at an event. There were several adults around, some of whom cheered on the ‘performances’, seemingly unaware of the message they were sending. I was taken aback, and sought to have a discussion with individuals within my area of responsibility, to address the ills that were seen. As I counselled my students, this occurred to me: these children are behaving as we have taught them to. A troubling thought for someone in my profession who sees manifestations of varied levels of conduct disorders, body dysmorphia and social pathology every single day, presenting in young people.
The fact is, the adults of this society are to be blamed. We complain about our children and the varied issues they have but it is us who create their world. As it came out in the discussion, we ‘sell’ them the sounds and images (music, videos, movies, magazines, books)that are rife with violent and high sexual content. Imagine a game where the dare is to ‘punch and knockout’ a total stranger (the old not excepted from this). No matter how much it is said that “There are parental controls on the internet and television”, our advertisements in magazines and television, on the billboards and flyers that is seen all around them are all filled with these images. We claim to try to protect them, but yet, every other image they see, created by adults, tells them something different.
They are confused. We tell our females about respecting their bodies and then create a world that glorifies the biggest ‘assets’ (insert____ here). We say ” You are beautifully and wonderfully made” then point out how great and perfect (whatever current pop artist, model, whomever) looks. We are teaching them that those individuals are the images we see when we say ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Handsome’. They proceed to compare themselves and of course, desire to look like that. Ever wonder why the cosmetics industry makes so much money? We tell our boys that females are to be treated in a particular way and yet create programs that promote promiscuity and label it “a reality show”.
Don’t be fooled that children don’t have access to content that we wouldn’t them viewing. I laugh sometimes that children seem to be born out of the womb, knowing how to use computers of every kind. Therefore, the adults of this world need to take responsibility for the future they are creating. We keep telling them one thing and doing another. It needs to stop being ‘Do as I say but not as I do’. We need to stop playing ostrich and burying our head in the sand and exercise some control over ourselves for the sake of our children. We already know what is out there. We need to do whatever it takes to create a world that allows a child to be a child, for as long as they are supposed to.
The world isn’t running away. Preserve their innocence, just a little while longer. Its only fair.