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For Parents: How to Raise a Kid Who Cares
Girls watching television

The Challenges

Why do some kids seem to care and others may not?

Numerous forces can undermine the development of children into positive social beings. While none of these might be considered harmful in moderation, too much of them, especially without discussion, may lead to kids who don't care. These challenges include:

Our "Buy Me That" Culture

Our "buy me that" culture promotes consumerism over activism. This can turn the focus of children's behavior from "I can do it" to "I want it." "Acquiring things as a source of happiness can permeate a child's sense of herself," says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., author of Best Day of the Week and a professor at Lesley University. "A child may begin to identify herself by what she has, wears, and plays with, rather than what she accomplishes from using her internal resources. Identification with merchandise can cause some children to tune out the needs of others and define well-being as what they get instead of what they do."

Too Much Screen Time

Over-exposure to passive media such as TV, video games and movies, can take children away from actively participating in their lives. While media in moderation is fun, fine and expected, over-consumption can lead to kids who don't care. "When children watch TV, they are interacting only indirectly with their world," comments Levin. "They are having second-hand experience where they passively observe the actions and ideas of others."

Imitative Play

If children are primarily engaging in passive play, where they imitate what they see on TV, they are less likely to be stimulated and take creative action on their own. "Highly-structured toys that are linked to TV programs and movies can make kids play look more like a TV script than an innovative play experience," notes Levin.

Violent Programming

TV, video and online games containing violent, anti-social, teasing and bullying behaviors can inhibit the development of caring. It also undermines children's ability to feel powerful and effective from their own actions.

"Children who watch media with a lot of mean-spirited behavior, both in words and actions, can learn that hurting others is a regular and normal thing people do to solve their problems. In addition, a vicious cycle can be set up whereby children need media, media violence and media-related toys to feel strong, instead of finding strength in their own creative and positive actions," states Carlsson-Paige.

NEXT: Practical Ways to Nurture Caring Kids  »