Focus on the Wrong Issues

The other day as I was driving to the store, I flipped on the little local Christian station I’ve recently discovered. The DJ’s were happy, the pastor clips were enthusiastic, the music was good. Then a new block came on, and the most joyless, hang-dog-sounding people came on and started talking about following the Lord. About this time I arrived at the store and missed most of the program. When I came back, the same joyless people were soberly discussing broken homes and no-fault divorce, and healing from that. Then it finished up, and it had been Focus on the Family.

Oh. Of course. No wonder I got such a bad taste in my mouth.

Then yesterday my mother-in-law handed me a copy of Thriving Family, and I groaned. I’d somehow wound up on their mailing list before, and I’d skim their articles on parenting and make sure I was doing exactly the opposite. I’ve griped on here before about that magazine, and how kids are treated like this bizarre experiment to be poked and prodded and observed.

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So, just for laughs, I picked it up and started flipping through to see what gems of wisdom ol’ hangdog Focus on the Family had for the summer of 2013. I happened across an article called Caught in the Web. The first paragraph was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

When Kelly wasn’t in school, she was constantly checking Facebook to keep up with the events in her teen world. Jason’s mom recognized his online addiction when he continually created videos late into the night, regardless of house rules. Chris enjoyed online courses but easily got pulled into role-playing games–his mother confesses that it wasn’t long before Chris was addicted to them. For teens, Internet obsessions and addictions come in many forms, including blogs, gambling, social news sites, social media sites, gaming, pornography and more.

Don’t you love how porn and gambling are lumped in with all the rest?

Let’s take it one point at a time. Hanging out on Facebook? How many adults here do that? *raises hand*

Creating videos long into the night? Number one, the kid’s being creative. Number two, people can make money off their videos. He may have been building his video backlog to increase his earnings! Addiction? No, JOB!

Doing online courses and being distracted by role-playing games? This smells of over-achieving parent pushing their kid too hard, and he’s sliding off into games because his brain is burning out. Notice it’s the mother confessing her son’s addiction, not her son.

The article goes on to talk about how the American Psychiatric Association MIGHT include Internet Use Disorder in the next issue of their manual. Meaning it’s one more made-up malady they can sell drugs for.

In typical Focus on the Family style, it goes on to diagnose a teen from a clinical, distant point of view. Is your teen (that strange animal) having problems in their distant teen world, like boredom or being bullied? How should the parent know, anyway? No parent in their right mind associates with their teen children in any capacity, especially not in open communication.

Signs of addiction:

  • Craving more time on the Internet
  • Lying to conceal extent of involvement
  • Using the internet to escape or relieve feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression
  • Displaying irritability when attempting to cut back
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Withdrawing from other activities
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Under-performing at work or school
  • Showing physical changes in weight or care of self

All of us adults do those things. I believe I’ve seen a Facebook meme pic about every single one of these.

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Mom-says-i-spend-too-much-time-on-the-web

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The article suggests taking away the kid’s internet, ipods and cellphones. Or installing heavy filtering software. Because, as a teen who learned how to turn all the filters off, that’s a fool-proof way of keeping your trained monkey off Facebook! HA!

They also suggest getting a shrink, so your kid can burn thousands of your dollars complaining about what a horrible parent you are.

Having interacted with lots of these “addicted” teens and being “heavily addicted” myself, I think half the time it’s the jerk parents’ fault for being such an overbearing snot that the kid flees their presence as fast as possible.

It’s also possible that the kid is being really creative. I shudder to think how much time I spent writing (longhand) and typing up stories. Or drawing. What about the teens learning to compose music for Overclocked Remix, or making trippy remix videos of their favorite shows (“They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”) And you stay up late to do that because it’s the only time the house is quiet and your dang mom doesn’t keep barging in to tell you to get off.

Having been heavily into raiding in World of Warcraft in my youth, I also understand that. When you commit to raiding with a guild, they give you a list of obligations you have to meet. It’s like job training. You show up on time, with the correct gear, you perform a job, you adapt to sudden changes, you interact with your guild mates and settle squabbles.

Once again, Focus on the Family has written a great article for parents to use as ammunition against their children. Slow clap, Focus. Slow clap.

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8 thoughts on “Focus on the Wrong Issues”

  1. Wow did they hit a nerve or what? I totally agree and that is why I stopped anything to do with Focus on the Family in the early 90s they just didn’t get it. It looks like they are doing the same old crap. I would have lost you all to the world had I taken their advice. I shudder to think how things had turned out had I treated you like the enemy like focus does ultimately. That kind of parenting or even living in the world today doesn’t work. Oh, and I guess I am horrible addicted to the internet and blogging. Remember when some suggested that blogging was to women the same as porn. 🙂
    Well now I know where that comes from.
    I really feel that what Focus on the Family did to the American Church was they brought in another gospel and Christians drank the kool-aid. By the gallon. It would be interesting to note if the rise in the Christian divorce rate and broken homes rose the same time as the popularity of Focus on the Family.

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  2. Ok, first: Yes! Totally agree. Focus on the Family isn’t really focusing on the family at all… Or at least is focusing in a mean and spiteful way… My upbringing was very FotF oriented, and you know how I feel about it!

    Second: There are a few points in the article blurbs that were a *little* valid. If the kid is staying up past the time his parents told him to go to bed, he should be getting some kind of discipline for it, because rules of the house still need to be followed (although if he’s already a teen and is ignoring you, it’s way too late for discipline). And I do think that a lot of people (not just teens!) are spending way too much time with electronics and not enough time with actual people (ever been to a restaurant and the table next to you is full of people that are all staring at their phones and not saying a word to each other?).

    Three: Remind me to never get on your bad side.

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    1. Kim: They do treat the kids like the enemy, and I think that’s what’s so infuriating to me.

      Meg: Yeah, this is my ranting at its finest. I usually don’t have the energy for this sort of thing. It really annoys me that they impose all these rules on “teens” that they wouldn’t impose on themselves. Maybe it’s from just having come through two months of the deepest, most twisted double standards in existence, but it really PO’s me right now.

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  3. The excerpt you posted really doesn’t describe addictive behavior at all. o_0 They need to rethink their definitions.

    From Joe’s and my perspective, and activity officially becomes an addiction when it interferes with the person’s necessary daily activities. For example, Joe plays video games pretty much every day when we come home from work. That’s fine. But if he starts choosing video games over work (or, in a teenager’s world, chores, homework, grades…) then it becomes an addiction. Not before.

    Obviously Focus on the Family has chosen not to include their ideas in the modern age, and the internet will always be labeled “evil.” >>

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    1. I’ve read articles refuting “internet addiction”. Basically an addiction is something chemical that you cannot physically control. But you always have a choice to use the internet or play videogames. There is nothing compelling your body to crave games or internet.

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  4. Also gotta teach and model proper time management I guess. Don’t let the TV/net babysit your kids but let them also participate things that build their skills and talents and it is the parent’s responsibility to provide alternatives for them. Don’t tell them to get off the game or PC and give them nothing else to do.

    I spent a lot of time alone growing up. It would be homework, legos, barbies, mud pies, TV, games, comics and drawing for me. Thanks especially to the latter two, I became a decent comic artist. My father was great to provide me with a book shelf of encyclopedias and nature books and I ended up being a nature nerd as well [you can see how that also informs my art (*cough* anthro)].

    Parents don’t realize it’s the simple things that help but people just can’t seem to make the time to enrich them anymore. Also let them know everyday that you love them most of all and try to get to know them as people, not just a thing to feed and send to school.

    I say all this in general since I can’t comment on FoF in particular. I don’t know too much about them aside from the seemingly useful snippets I hear on Moody radio.

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    1. It’s true! Just a little kindness, respect and love goes a long way. I know I required tons of time alone growing up, especially when I hit my teens and discovered how much fun writing was. I withdrew for a while, but I got lonely and came back. It’s a hormone thing, I guess. It’s just that FOF seems to advocate fighting against this, rather than bearing with the kid and coaxing them back with love.

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  5. True, and I may not have kids but I remember being one. Teens need some patience and understanding. I’m still looking back at my teen years wondering what the heck happened 😄

    The best thing that ever happened to me during those years was meeting Christ. Before that, it’s a bit of a blur.

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