A Review and Reflection on the film Men Women & Children
Last night as I was winding down after seeing clients and reviewing my material for an upcoming workshop on the ways in which technology is effecting youth and their ability to develop healthy relationships and intimacy, I stumbled upon a movie that was perfectly apropos. The movie, Men, Women, and Children begins with a scene of Adam Sandler looking disappointed and disgruntled at his slow internet speed, as he is trying to access porn in a comical yet too-close-for comfort digital world way.
The movie follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they flounder and falter navigating the internet. It highlights just how imbedded and infiltrated the internet is in their every communication, lurking as they strive to build relationships, and infecting their ideas of self-image, and self-worth. This film addresses several social issues that have been consequence to the over-integration of the internet into peoples daily lives. Issues such as hours spent on video games and the violent and degrading gaming culture, perpetuation of eating disorders and anonymous chat rooms, the ease of infidelity through cyberspace, desperate attempts for internet fame and approval and the proliferation of sexual material on the internet. As the story progresses, the film highlights the struggle parents go through walking the tight rope of over-protecting their children trying to shield them from the potential dangers of the internet and over-indulging kids with devices waiving any time and spacial boundaries on the limitless information they have access to.
The common thread these parents shared despite their polarizing positions on internet access and permissions, was their lack of talking with their children. The over-bearing mother who literally tracked her daughters every move and text message never sat her daughter down and explained why she was doing what she was doing. Nor did the mother trust her daughter to navigate the inevitable. This mother was in denial about shielding her daughter. By rejecting the notion that her daughter could access the dangerous sites, she shut down any conversation that could have helped her daughter navigate and process the "dangerous" material in a healthy and supported fashion.
Parents need to talk to their kids. Have awkward conversations. Show them that you can stumble through the awkwardness and come through for them.
On the other end of the spectrum, a mother had over-indulged her daughter and felt acceptance and approval from the lewd comments strangers were giving her daughters bikini pictures. The mother was unaware of the dangers of the internet as well as the objectifying message she was sending her daughter, "your worth is not only in your looks, but how much other people approve of your looks". The internet is a mesmerizing temptress, beckoning us into its vortex of anonymous engagement and limitless information. Kids are desperate for boundaries. They will push the envelope and hope to be pushed back. Explaining why the internet is powerful and dangerous and providing kids with the tools to self-regulate is invaluable. It is impossible to shield kids from the internet (unless you live on an iceberg somewhere without wifi). So rather than pretending like they wont access of the information we wish they couldn't access, we need to accept that the internet is here to stay and start talking to our kids. Help them build a toolkit to navigate this digital age where information is limitless and instantaneous.
Like spiderman's father once said "with great power, comes great responsibility". Technology has made our lives so much more convenient and efficient, but it also has the potential to strip us of our intimacy and ability to enjoy REAL LIFE happening in REAL TIME.
Lets learn to intentionally unplug, look up from our screens, and tune into the ephemeral here and now.