"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 a 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 the 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.