And they call us “Unsocial!”

As I walked into the room filled with kids, “BOOM” went the RPG as the kid blew up his opponent’s head in “Call of Duty 2” and screamed, “Hell yeah, that’s a streak of ten!” I was at someone’s house for dinner with my parents. It was just me- neither my brother or sister accompanied us this evening. We were one of the first guests to arrive and our host told me to go upstairs to the kids’ room where all the kids were hanging out. She didn’t introduce me to her son or show me where the room was, even though this was my first time at her place. In this room, I saw two kids on a tv playing “Call of Duty”, one on a PC playing an XBox game with a PS3 controller and three kids on their iPods. As I walked in I said “Salams” and didn’t get more than a murmur back. More and more kids kept coming, and they all seemed to know each other and they were all really good at video games. I tried talking to one kid who was watching and not really playing a game, and all his responses were “yeah”, “unh hunh” and “yep”, and when I realized he wasn’t really listening to me, I stopped talking but he still kept saying those words for a while before he turned around, looked at me and realized I had stopped talking a while back. Interestingly he didn’t even feel bad about it. I think he was kind of relieved I had shut up! I felt weirded out at the fact that I was a new guest and no one gave me a second look. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and I said “Give me the remote and let me play.” They looked at me like, “Now you are talking” but since I was so bad at the game, another kid took the controller from me and said “let me get you some kills!” Later on he said “wanna know why I took the controller from you? Because you freakin suck!”

Our host came up once the entire evening and asked who had prayed Maghreb, and every single kid, regardless of whether or not they actually prayed, raised their hand. She said “good job” and left! Was I dreaming? Such big hypocrites I thought. That was the most adult contact we had all evening. In our house my parents keep telling us how to put the guest before us, and here I was, I didn’t even know who my host is! I figured out my host by seeing his picture on the refrigerator when we went downstairs to get dinner.

Everyone thinks homeschoolers are super smart, shy, and unsocial. But now days “social” is totally different. Social means popularity, partying and playing video games. I thought social meant talking, interacting, and actually having full attention with each other. People now have head sets to yell at each other in MW3 (Modern Warfare 3), Call of Duty, and other shooter games. There are modes so you can play kids online and there’s so much cursing that every other word is the ‘F’ word. How is this social? How is being plugged in and yelling at someone you don’t know, can’t see and want to kill, being “social”? How is having a party when your friends or possible friends come over, where you don’t talk with them or enjoy their company being “social”? I, the homeschooled child, was the one trying to be social and yet they call us unsocial!

– Ridwan Rasheed, 11

To say the least my son was disappointed and felt very “unwelcome”, but that’s not why I made him write this. It’s not to complain or to criticize a generous host. In one way this helped him articulate his feelings and thoughts but in other aspects I hope it helps us think about how we are raising our kids. It’s not uncommon to see kids disengaged from adult conversations and gatherings and it is even more uncommon to see adults and children participate in discussions or social events together. If we separate the socialization of our children from us, how do we then teach them to become generous hosts themselves? How do we set an example for our children to be inclusive and respectful if they don’t see us adults do this? If their world is one of anger, revenge, destruction and violence, albeit through a screen, how can they connect with reality of generosity, compassion, hospitality and magnanimity?

During khtubas our children hear about the evils of video games and computer games and the newest technological devices plugging them in, but I’ve seen young men and women plugged in to these devices during the very same khtubas! Video games today make their player virtually commit more sins in fifteen minutes than ever possible in real life.* Critics have written volumes on how video game manufacturers are abrasive, sexist, racist, demonic and sinful- even to the own comfort of the game writers. Why is it that while Christian forums can claim openly how demonic these forces are, as Muslims we shy away from calling it as we see it? Why are Muslim children allowed these sins to be in their rooms? Why are Muslim parents purchasing, with their hard earned halal income, games that delude and destroy the very fabric of our teachings? Why are Muslim parents switching off their brains when their children switch on video games? One parent told me that the Wii game console they recently purchased is for the physical education of her son! This way he can practice his tennis, even while sitting in the living room! Does anyone else think this is absurd or have I gone the deep end? Another parent told me in order to be a better mom, she needs her “me” time and she can be sure her kids are safe at home while playing video games and she can relax.

I am truly afraid we are raising a generation of youth who are disconnected with reality by being connected into an outlet. I understand technology is an excellent babysitter, I also see how it’s part of our daily lives, but it cannot replace relationships and that is what we need to teach our children to get plugged into first. We cannot afford to lose our children, our biggest amanah, for a few hours of “me” time or the false premise that an electronic machine will teach better than hard work and practice.

May Allah grant us tawfiq to protect our children and raise them to be compassionate Muslims fit to bear the name of this deen.

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About Soulful Studies

Home schooling consultant, home educator and mother of 4, blogger
This entry was posted in Lessons of life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to And they call us “Unsocial!”

  1. Megan Wyatt says:

    Wow…I have to say I am pretty shocked! As a home schooler, I don’t think my kids socialize with anyone that entertains like that – at least not that I’m aware of. The occasional angry bird here or there, yes, and other games on i-pads, but even then, they are always done in the context of family, and not just kids.

    I am really proud of your son for being able to distinguish what true socialization looks like and have a great sense of self so that the “rejection” of these boys or their comments didn’t rattle him. While it can be true that “boys and men” often prefer what is called “shoulder to shoulder” bonding more than just straight up talking – that doesn’t mean it can’t be done playing basketball, or soccer outside in a yard – something healthy and fun and inclusive.

    And it certainly doesn’t mean that the host should not have manners, greeting guests, etc. But this is also not an uncommon thing I’ve seen at Muslim homes when my kids were younger – the “kids room” usually meant a movie or video games so the adults can relax and talk undisturbed.

    I think his article should be circulated to get more parents talking and thinking!

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts Megan.
      I know that when our kids were younger, video games within family social times were few and far between. Now, with kids getting older and the circles of friends growing- both homeschooled and otherwise- I’m noticing an increase in games and other electronic technologies pervading our spaces. Even in weddings I’m seeing kids on their iPads and littler and littler ones on iPhones so as to not disturb the event.
      I think times are changing expeditiously and we need to be more vigilant than before. With wi-fi everywhere and smaller and smaller electronic gadgets and gizmos easier to access, the internet is but a click away. Teachers, priests, counselors, volunteers everyone is noticing this trend of looking down onto a screen, instead of up to your face during class times!
      And sadly, yes, it does begin with seemingly simple games- but everything grows!

  2. Jazak Allah Khair Nabila.

  3. Hina says:

    Thank you so much for drawing attn to such a major problem in our society today. I have been to girlfriends’ homes where their teen sons remain lying on the couch, playing video games, while we adults are walking in and vainly looking for a seat to take. It’s so disheartening and I feel really embarrassed for the kids and their parents.

    I am going to share this piece on my Facebook and with my sons and their cousins. Sometimes it’s easier to hear advice when your peers are the ones who give it. Thank you so much for writing this. And, by the way, good job! You painted a very clear picture!

  4. Name withheld says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Mashallah. I’ve noticed this in some homes we’ve been to, particularly 3-4 year old boys playing video games. My son feels left out since he doesn’t know how to play. It’s hard to deal with without offending the host, but it does affect our social interaction. Friends who may be “fun” for us are not necessarily healthy for our kids or families. Children from homeschooling co-ops are not automatically immune or protected! Parental guidance, interest and involvement is crucial. May Allah continue to bless and protect your family. Ameen.

    • Fadia says:

      I remember that we used to give each kid a turn to finish one game then we’d turn it off. Plus we insist on choosing the right games to play with, no violence and have a purpose or a skill to be developed. The kids were complaining and thinking that we are overprotective, it took so much effort ,time and patience, but now we see it is worth it. You are on the right track Ridwan, it is the difficult way to go against the flow, but the outcome is beautiful I can see that in you, may Allah bless you always.

    • You are absolutely right- it’s scary to know that babies/ toddlers are hooked on electronics! We have to watch our kids and their social circles like hawks, almost, to garner a natural growth environment for them.
      May Allah make it easy for all parents struggling out there to raise the next generation.

  5. Leila says:

    BismiAllah
    Ridwan! You can come to our house anytime and believe me there will be no video games here:) and lots of socialization and talking instead of cursing:) Love your article MashaAllah! Keep up the good work!

    Shaheen, Thanks for sharing and posting for others to read….it’s nice to know we are not alone! There are many other parents who are worried about the future generations and all these games, ipods, ipads, etc… May Allah protect the children of the ummah from all this and make them leaders for the future generations!

    Leila

  6. Subhanallah I feel as if most video games can not only prevent you from accomplishing things (wasting time), but they can even introduce bad mental habits and drag you backwards. I was just reading on the homeschooling site Kinza academy that was linked to by someone above, and started reading an article about how in the 1800’s, 12 year-old-s would learn Greek and Latin and go off to Harvard. Amazing!

  7. Nabila says:

    To Ridwan — your intelligence and superb social skills shine through!
    I know Ridwan personally and he is a kind, generous, polite young man who always has something interesting to discuss if you take the time to have a conversation with him. I would posit that it’s the very fact of Ridwan’s having been homeschooled that he’s able to make these critical observations about the decadence of our times, particularly at such a young age. He hasn’t been sucked into the vortex of an increasingly violent, dishonest, and uncivil cultural norm. May God protect him and may we work together to raise more children like Ridwan.

  8. Parisa says:

    Very nice article and quite good observations from your son masha Allah. Alhamdullilah so far my kids don’t have any video consoles, With their free time, they are creating their own imaginary worlds, creating art and reading. And definitely a lot more social than most kids their age. Parents can have “me” time by getting their kids involved in reading or other activities that don’t require an outlet.

  9. Faten says:

    Mashallah, wonderfully written article. I’m very very proud of Ridwan, but it was a very sad thing to read 😦

  10. Rana says:

    A wonderful article indeed!! But sadly, this is so common now. It starts off when the kids are small. Parents ship their babies over to a virtual babysitter and as the kids get older, it just never ends. Later, the parents wonder why there is no communication going on between them. Even now, when people find out I’m homeschooling, the first question out is about socialization.

    Alhamdulilah, majority of our social circles have kids who prefer to run wild (pity the terrified host), but its so much better than gaming. But there are times when my boys will come back to me complaining that no one is doing anything….”when can we leave?”

    Hats off to Ridwan for letting his beautiful mind shine through. Mashallah very well written.

  11. Khadija M Harsolia says:

    Dear Ridwan, As Salam Alaikum. Can I tell you how refreshing it is to see your recent reflections? The reader can appreciate well-gathered thoughts resulting from serious reflection, and a thorough analysis of a social situation that most children and adults would shrug off, unwilling to articulate. The herd mentality can be tough to escape which is worrisome when the “herd’s enroute to “no good.” But as the article suggests sometimes the blame lies not with the youth alone. When I was younger I’d wished there were more productive youth projects of which I could be a part. Whatever opportunities I came across with Islamic Sunday school friends and namely that which was youth initiated was really powerful. Perhaps your peers just need someone to not just “tell it like it is” (i.e. “You’re behaving like fools”) but offer some meaningful project to which they can contribute. I know mobility is a challenge as youths but something tells me that won’t stop you, iA. May Allah grant you success and make you the means for other’s success too! Do you have any suggestions for my almost 8 year old son who is enamored by video games even though or perhaps because we do try to limit it? Thanks, khadija h.

  12. Um Sumayyah says:

    Dear Ridwan,

    ma sha’ Allah, I simply loved your reflections! You observations are spot on and it is a sad reality that we must resist in order to preserve our humanity and true nature. Well done and well written! May Allah (swt) protect you and your family. Amin!

    Love,
    Khala Angie 🙂

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