I recently read that imitation is the basis of all social intelligence. That we are wired, right from the very beginning of life, to mimic the human beings around us. Particularly our primary caregivers; those we spend the most amount of time with. Those that we depend upon for our very survival and well-being. Those that we want to be like more than anyone else in the world.
I remember it so well with my son Jack when he was young. For a time we dubbed him “The Worker,” not only because he loved to use brooms and hammers but because this was what he told someone he wanted to be when he grew up. He was emulating my husband, his father. He took great pride and joy using his hands and busying himself with building, cleaning and fixing things. I could make the argument here that being “a worker” was less about any role or job, and much more about him trying to be just like someone he loved and looked up to.
If we take this simple example and extrapolate it out into the world at large, it calls for us, as the the adults, to be clear about what we are modeling. This is not limited to just your children, or even whether or not you have children. What matters only is what we are offering to the younger generations by way of what we are showing them is possible, necessary and desirable.
Nowhere is our lack of understanding around being a role model more in evidence then with the way we use the technologies. What it is that we are demonstrating and offering up as something to be imitated. And while many of us have marveled, or been distressed by, how quickly the children take to the screens, or how absorbed they are by it to the exclusion of other more important things, is there anywhere else to look but at ourselves? This is not easy to do. As a matter of fact, it is far easier to shake our heads in either awe or distress at what the younger generations are doing, than it is to take a hard look at what we are doing.
When we characterize our children’s preoccupation with all things screen as some new extraordinary, or scary, adaptation to the species, something only the younger generations possess, is it not folly to miss the most salient point of all? That being, that it is we who have showed them the way. We who have demonstrated to them how important the devices are. We who have acted as a model for what to want and how to be with all of this.
Because we do not have a lot of time with this one as far too many children are missing out on something worthy of their precious life to imitate, I ask you now, “Are you proud of what you are showing the children around the role that the technologies play in your life?” And while it may sting in the moment to stand in the presence of such a pointed question, this is what our children need. Now. Right now. Grown-ups who are proud of how they handle the devices. Grown-ups who recognize the central and powerful position they hold in the life of a child, and who carry that charge with respect and vision.
If we are going to elevate anything in life to the exclusive and lofty position that the technologies have achieved in such a short amount of time, should it not be of the highest caliber? Should it not be worthy of the very best in our children? For the truth is, the children are watching us. All of the time. They want to be like us. They want what we want. If this makes any sense to you whatsoever, then the only question is, “How and where can I do right by the children, and where is it that I am letting them down?”