The Selfie Syndrome
(This is an adaptation of a blog post by Edward Earwood, founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. Dr. Earwood also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.)
“Selfie Syndrome” is a term used by psychologist and parenting expert Michelle Borba. She notes that the “rise of social media, as well as changes in our culture and parenting styles” had produced a generation of self-absorbed youth. Borba offers some alarming statistics:
- Narcissism rates are up 58% compared to three decades ago.
- Nearly 3 out of 4 college students admit cheating in class
- One-third of college students report being depressed to the point of “having trouble functioning”
Probably safe to say this is not what was envisioned a generation or two back! So what can Christian parents do to cast a better vision for our students? Here are some good places to start:
Model a life of serving others – Jesus came as a prophet, priest, and king, but His greatest example to us is that of a servant. Before he completed His mission at Calvary, he washed feet. Our children need to see us serving those around us by providing meals in times of illness, praying with others, and assisting them even when we’re not required to do so.
Seek empathy opportunities – Empathy involves seeking to understand the personal needs of those around us--our neighbors, other parents, teachers at school, etc. This helps our kids see how to love and be kind to those that are different than them. Our job is to help them “walk a mile” in others’ shoes. Guide them to give time and/or money to relief efforts. As a family, seek opportunities to assist the elderly or work in homeless shelters or rescue missions. Go beyond “How was your day?” conversations at mealtime to talk about how others in their class might be struggling and then discuss what might be appropriately kind words or gestures in response.
Focus on self-sacrifice not self-esteem – Our culture tells parents to teach self-esteem, but the truth is that success comes when one’s life is guided by self-sacrifice. Jesus told His disciples to deny themselves rather than to be consumed by self-interest. Isn’t it interesting that suicide rates are on the rise in our world that is so given to building self-esteem? The truth is that life does not revolve around us, and when kids are taught that it does, it’s hard to reconcile the difficulties that are bound to come. Rarely do students need help building an esteemed self!
Honor those that sacrifice – Our first thoughts may go to our military members or first responders, but there are many more examples of those that “esteem others better than themselves.” What about a person who donates an organ to family, friend, or total stranger? It may be someone who sacrificed to assist storm victims, the poor, or a mission project? What about someone who has chosen a “helping profession” such as teaching, ministry, or public service?
An others-centered project – As a family, choose a long-term project that allows all members to see, understand, empathize, and sacrificially invest in other people, letting your kids offer ways that they can be used to meet the needs of others. Facilitate opportunities for your children to have an actionable part in helping. Go beyond just giving money, clothing, or food. Money does not solve all problems and it is often too easy to give material items and then return the focus to oneself.
Effective parents teach their children to live for something greater than self. As our culture caters to the desires of self, let’s be intentional about showing and teaching our students that the end of a life marked by Selfie Syndrome is disappointment, not lasting success!