We live in a competitive, challenging culture. As parents, we try to equip our kids with every tool, skill and advantage to possess the ability to compete with an edge -- or at least, an equal playing field. Our kids are provided with instrumental lessons, individual athletic coaches, SAT tutoring, academic tutoring, dance lessons, martial arts, art lessons and more. Despite parental efforts to provide their kids with the best teachings and cultural and educational offerings, many 21st Century parents feel that they are losing the battle. The problem is that today's parents are often fighting the wrong war. How can you feel like you are winning the battle when you are fighting the wrong war?
Parents face an extremely powerful opponent, yet most don't even see it. That powerful opponent is a much greater force that challenges and often opposes our idea of what is healthy for our children. It is the power of global access using the Internet and mobile devices. Kids, starting as young as 3 years old, have access and exposure to a cyber-world and peer influence that competes with and can be in direct contrast to the values we are trying to instill in our children. Internet and mobile phone access provides them with the ability to be exposed to everything and anything, everyone and anyone, any time and all the time, with layers of unbridled privacy from their parents. How can we compete with that powerful and pervasive an influence? That is the real war and competition that today's parents face.
Every parent has the challenge and task of trying to raise their children so that they emerge into happy, well-adjusted adults. We do that by attempting to instill the values, attitudes, behaviors and social skills that we think are the important ingredients needed to reach that end goal-happy, well adjusted adults. We teach them using our words, we try to model them so they emulate us and we expose them to educational, cultural and social activities that are consistent with what we believe are a healthy set of skills. But they are all countered by an alternative set of information youth encounters via global access.
It is not even a fair fight. Our competition has an edge and advantage that consistently wins out over parental influence no matter how hard parents try. That advantage is the fact that most parents only see the results of the exposure to an alternative behavior set that is inappropriate or directly challenges our teachings. By then, it is often too late. The other advantage global access has is the glamour, seductively clandestine and forbidden fruit aspect to the information kids can have. It is a world that enables them to engage in behaviors, peer interactions and activities without adults looking over their shoulder, correcting them and forbidding them. The feature of privacy is a primary weapon that global access uses against parents. The good news is that since we know that, we can dismantle it with a little effort and knowledge. Here is your ammunition for your weapon to win the fight of competing values your kids experience through global access.
1. Clearly identify your values and attitudes toward bodies, sex, school, family, and relationships.
2. Firmly establish, in your mind and the minds of your children, that the Internet and cell phones are privileges, not rights. They must be earned and have limits regarding their use.
3. Monitor and discuss your child's Internet and mobile phone activities. If you see edgy or inappropriate material or communications, discuss it with them in a corrective, but not a moralistic manner.
4. Keep pace with both the technology and pop culture so you know what your kids are exposed to and being influenced by.
5. Discuss, discuss, discuss and instead of pontificating, ask them questions about how they feel and what they think about behaviors and attitudes that contradict the values and attitudes you are trying to impart.
Dr. Osit is a psychologist, speaker, and author of "Generation Text: Raising Well Adjusted Kids In An Age Of Instant Everything."