The Right to a Healthy Social Environment: Protecting Children from Social Toxicity

Some kids are smarter than others. Some are better looking than others. Some are kinder and more sensitive than others. Some are more talented than others. Some are more confident than others. But all these differences pale in comparison with what kids share, and kids don’t change much at their core over the years. They want to be valued and accepted. They want to be safe. They want to learn and explore. They want to play and have fun. They need to find meaning in their lives and make a spiritual connection.

It’s not these core themes and concerns that change. Rather, it is the cultural, psychological, and social messages and tools they have available to them as they go about the universal business of growing up. The nature of these messages and tools does have an effect on that process of growing up, however. Some ennoble; others degrade. Some promote social order; others promote chaos. Some are good; some are bad. Some result in young adults who want to serve humanity and carve out a spiritually meaningful life for themselves, like the kids I read about who raised money in their school to help Hurricane Katrina victims a thousand miles away. Others result in teenagers like the ones I watched on a “reality” program on TV who to a person said their goal in life was “to be rich and famous.”

When the social environment spreads fear and falsehood it becomes poisonous to the development of children and youth, much as when the physical environment is poisoned and misused it can undermine their physical well-being. This is particularly true for kids who are especially vulnerable to developmental harm because of their difficult temperament or mental health problems.


Social Trust World Trade Center Khmer Rouge Violent Video Game Difficult Temperament 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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