Helping Socially Aware Kids to Process Information
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, cable television and the 24/7 news cycle have raised the social awareness of kids today to unprecedented levels. A generation ago, it was easy for kids to avoid dealing with social issues because they simply were not exposed to them on a daily basis unless they read newspapers or watched the news. While we may long for the simpler times that allowed children to hold on to their innocence for an extended period of time, the fact of the matter is that we have no choice but to help them process the information that they are inundated with at a much younger age.
Young sports fans usually choose their allegiance in one of a few ways: by family influence, by geography or by a favorite player. The family influence can be very strong when there is great passion for a particular team, but in the absence of such passion, the choice usually comes down to geography and favorite players.
It is understandable why my 11-yr old son chose Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers to be his favorite player when he got into basketball. His generation loves it when real-life athletes exhibit video-game abilities, so Griffin’s penchant for highlight-reel dunks made my son an instant fan a few years back.
This season, when the Clippers finally stepped out of the large shadow cast by the Los Angeles Lakers to become the best team in the city, my son was concerned that he would be perceived as a bandwagon fan, even though he was a fan long before the team’s meteoric rise. In light of what has happened over the past few days surrounding his favorite basketball team, the thought of bandwagon perception is no longer of any concern to him whatsoever.
My son was visibly shaken as he watched the reports about Clipper’s owner, Donald Sterling. Like most of us, he couldn’t believe the disgusting racist comments that he was hearing coming from the owner of his favorite team on all of the sports talk shows. This was particularly difficult for him because basketball has become his favorite sport since my wife and I made the decision to take him out of football for safety reasons. As we watched the reports together, he turned to me and asked…
“Does this mean that I have to stop liking the Clippers?”
“Absolutely not!” I replied. “The owner of the Clippers is disgraceful and he deserves whatever punishment he receives, and then some,” I continued.
“Is Blake Griffin still your favorite player?”
“Are you still a fan of all of the other players and the head coach?”
“Then you should continue to support them because they have done nothing wrong, and to make matters worse, they have to work for a man who is prejudiced against them because of the color of their skin.”
I believe that our conversation helped him for the time being, but he may ultimately decide to root for another team in the future anyway. I will stand by him no matter what team he chooses. While I wish that he didn’t have to deal with social issues like this at his age, I’m proud that it bothered him enough to question his loyalty to the team. It speaks volumes for the young man that he is quickly becoming.
Written by Adam Waldman