The world continues to change and with the internet now a central part of life it is changing at an unprecedented pace in strange and confusing ways. Depending on what generation you are part of these changes can be hard to understand. Even young parents who were born in the internet age struggle to understand the habits of the youngest generation. Yet sometimes not understanding does not give us permission to condemn. Parents often criticize children for spending too much time online, too much time gaming. Yet times have changed.
When older generations were young they didn’t always make smart decisions. Back then people spent far more time in pubs and clubs and had plenty of other bad habits. That is not to suggest that gaming is even a bad habit. It teaches motor coordination skills, it teaches computer skills that are now highly in demand and it is the modern age social environment. While parents tell kids to go outside and play with friends they often fail to realize that they are inside playing with many more friends. In the modern age, a great friend doesn’t have to be your next-door neighbor.
Reilly Howard is a perfect example of this. He is a typical 14-year-old boy. He spends all his free time online playing games like Fortnite and Counter-Strike and over time he has become as close with his online community as with his classroom friends. That is a scary thought for his parents but it is perfectly natural for a kid of his age. One night Reilly was playing and he noticed that his friend was not in his usual form.
As they were messaging it became clear that his friend was upset and told him he needed to talk. Reilly continued to message his friend and learned that he was contemplating suicide. His friend told him that he felt he had nothing to live for and was going to “do it tonight”. Reilly came through as a great friend. He continued to talk to him for hours to ensure the friend knew that someone cared for him. He told him how he was looking forward to playing online again tomorrow. He kept him alive.
When Reilly’s parents came home they found out about the ordeal and called the police of the state where the boy was. Soon they made contact with the parents and got the help that Reilly’s friend needed. If this was generations ago that boy may have struggled alone with nowhere to turn and may have died. Instead, he had an online community that he felt was close enough to ask for help.
Reilly’s story is an extreme one but it clearly highlights the importance of the changing social structure in our lives. Instead of criticizing children for the way they spend the time, we must work harder to understand how the social construct works. The new age of the internet has revolutionized many things, mostly for the better. It is now easier to access transport, music, and movies. There is clear evidence that is also now easier to access great friends.
There are costs to these new innovations. Children are in general spending too much time looking at devices and not enough time outside. A healthy balance must be struck to ensure they are getting the fresh air and exercise that they need as well as being able to operate in a social environment that is important today. If Reilly’s parents had told him he wasn’t allowed to play online that night something terrible may have happened. While you need to give your child guidelines try to give them the ability to make the right decision in each moment as well.