People often talk about “the American dream” and how people come to the United States to achieve it. However, there is some question about what the American dream is. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary online, the American dream is “a happy way of living that is thought of by many Americans as something that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S. especially by working hard and becoming successful.”
In her article titled “Perspective: The American dream isn’t just about money,” Naomi Schaefer Riley discussed the American dream. She wrote that the American dream traditionally was the idea that children should end up in a better position than the parents. “Achieving that intergenerational social mobility required that parents work hard, often at menial jobs, so that their kids could get a higher level of education and a better paying job.”
Today, there are individuals and families who are missing part of the formula to find the American dream. Riley suggested that we should “examine the kinds of messages we are sending young people about the best way to create a happy, successful life.”
One of the areas that we should examine is the effect of technology on the rising generation. Lois M. Collins examined the connection between family structure and the use of technology. She found that children who live with their married biological parents “use social media and digital technology roughly two hours less a day than their peers who live in stepfamilies or single-parent households.” She added that “family structure could also be an important help or hindrance when it comes to enforcing rules around electronic device use.”
America and the world suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic, which included cutting many or even most of our social interactions. The pandemic, particularly being kept out of school, greatly affected the mental and emotional health of children and teens. Being isolated from their friends, they relied on technology to maintain contacts, and some continue to prefer maintaining relationships through technology. Such behavior affects mental health. For example, depression “has been linked to excessive use of social media,” according to Collins.
Collins wrote that family structure makes a difference in how much time children and youth spend on technology. She quoted a report from the Wheatley Institute at Brigham Young University and the Institute for Family Studies. The study found that “enforcing the rules around technology falls to parents, but the challenges ‘may be greater for mothers and fathers in some family types than in others.’”
Collins suggested several ways for parents to help their children and youth to cut back on their use of technology. Her suggestions are as follow:
· Keep electronic devices out of kids’ bedrooms after bedtime.
· Do allow children younger than 13 to have social media accounts and seriously consider postponing it until at least 16 years of age.
· Delay getting a smartphone for your child – or allowing them to buy one – until they are at least 16 years of age or even 18.
· Set a time limit for a child to spend on digital media.
· Look for nondigital ways for your children to interact with their friends.
· Join other families who understand the importance of limiting use of technology.
Humans create and strengthen relationships with face-to-face encounters or at least listening to each other’s voice over the telephone. Texting is much faster than making a telephone call, but texts do not have the personal touch of telephone calls. Children and teens – as well as parents and spouses – need to know that they are loved. We can better show love by more personal contacts. By strengthening our families, we are more likely to help our children and grandchildren to achieve the American dream.