(The following article was featured as a guest commentary in the San Diego Coast News)
What has happened to good, old-fashioned respect? There are signs everywhere that it may be disappearing, but we need to bring it back or risk living in a world where no one cares and nothing is accomplished.
As the parent of two children, one in elementary and one in middle school, I often hear stories from my kids that not only shock me, but also make me feel sad. The stories are about kids who insult teachers during class, spray paint horrible things about Principals and staff. In fact, the other day I was picking up a carpool at the middle school and on my way out a boy made a vulgar hand gesture to me. If my children ever did anything like that to an adult they would suffer consequences. But how would I know? I teach my children to respect others and themselves, and I can only hope and pray that they do so.
Disrespect among peers has plagued young people and continues to make headlines across the nation and world. Cyber bullying, while a form of anguish and torment, also has roots in respect (or lack of it). Why do young people think they are empowered to affect the lives of others in a way that could lead to severe and possibly irreversible consequences, including murder and suicide? Where along the way did this come to be acceptable?
Some people say that lack of respect is caused by the advance in technology, or the fact that in many households both parents or the single parent works, leaving children home alone for long periods of time. This theory advocates that there is no longer a â€šÃ„ÃºLeave it to Beaverâ€šÃ„Ã¹ situation where there is a parent who is always around for the children, thus causing them find ways to entertain themselves that may get them into trouble. The days of playing in the front yard with the neighborhood kids seem to be over in most cases.
The internet and mobile access to it has been blamed for the lack of respect as well. The amount of information available to children these days is scaryâ€šÃ„Ã®it is easy to learn how to cheat on a paper or test, find or make weapons or bombs, or watch pornographyâ€šÃ„Â¶all at our fingertips. Social network sites like Facebook and MySpace are very popular amongst young adults, and are the way to communicate. Unfortunately many use it inappropriately to tarnish reputations and hurt others.
Video games and the media also play a role in the demise of respect. Far from the innocence of games of the past like PacMan and Asteroids, today’s video games can be extremely violent. Exploding bodies, blood and torture are the norm in many popular games, creating desensitization issues. Many kid-friendly movies and even television shows on child-appropriate networks portray violence, adult themes (like sex, drugs and alcohol), and even young actors who have to make uncharacteristic grown-up decisions.
There are many factors that contribute to the growing lack of respect today, but one thing is clear: we need to fix it before respect disappears. It is not only the young generation, but also the older ones who demonstrate behaviors that are disrespectful. As an example to the younger generations it is imperative that we set examples of proper behavior. Work stress, lack of sleep, financial problems, relationship issues, trafficâ€šÃ„Â¶there is a lot on most peoples’ plates right now. But to get through it we need to respect each other. Getting angry at someone because they cut you off or cut in front of you does not help you at all. Why raise your heart rate, make yourself upset?
Each day, each moment is a gift, and each person has an equal right to that gift. If we all start living according to this principal we will naturally be more respectful, and the world will be a better place.