It will seem like miles away for anyone with babies, those tender urgent armfuls of possibility and responsibility,
and you're sure you'll raise your kids to know better, and of course you’ll read aloud the best kind of stories, the ones that foster self esteem and social intelligence and sweet dreams,
and you’ll provide all the right firm, loving, communicative boundaries even when they terrible and two. Even (maybe especially) when they are twelve, and their eyes begin roll oh-so expressively, when their open and curious brows turn suddenly stormy and surly,
and you’ll arrive at the teen years, that horizon that felt so impossibly far
and you’ll discover that no matter what you do, peers exert a terrible and sometimes deadly pressure on otherwise good, smarter-than-this kids.
Add social media, alcohol and the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex of a teenager and stir. The resulting of-the-moment toxic cocktail? Neknominations.
[This is where you would expect to click the word “neknominations," and it would link to the Facebook page where you can “nominate” someone. I hope you’ll understand if I don’t want to drive traffic there. Do a quick online check of the news; what you’ll find is reports of the deaths that have already occurred.]
Neknominations are every parent’s nightmare. That thing on the horizon that you fear most: the potentially lethal combination of intoxicants, hormones, willful stupidity, and now, of social media’s insidious power, which adds several strata of new pressures to the inevitable peer dynamics.
I look at those videos and I shudder. I am neither a social scientist, nor a psychologist. I am a mother, and when I see those posts all I can think is that each of those young people is someone’s baby. When teens are pouring shock-value amounts of alcohol into themselves so they can record and post the results, and then publicly challenging each other to one-up the stunts in ever more dangerous “games,” I fear something has gone terribly terribly wrong in our culture. “Sick!” they say, in admiration of each other’s antics. Sick indeed. Every one of those nominees has parents or a teacher or a community of people around them who has taught them to know better.
Somewhere inside, they too know better. Happily, gratefully, I can tell you the trend is shifting. And there are people, lots of them young, who are turning the compelling nature of this dangerous internet “game” toward spreading more goodness. Visit the Facebook RAK Nomination page to watch random acts of kindness going viral. Help them on their way. Show your kids.
I can also tell you that teenagers are wonderful, that they have absorbed all that you’ve given them, that they are responsible, and funny, and wise, but also sometimes very shortsighted and vulnerable to the Jackass-influenced aspects of their peer oriented culture. They are also entirely capable of leadership and magnificently creative acts of compassion.
And sometimes? Sometimes they still need your arms to hold them safe.
If you liked this post—and have a teen—you might want to check out Looking to Connect With Your Teen? Do These Things Today! and 82 Things My Teenager Thinks Are Bull$hit.