How to Parent in the New Digital Teenager
We are living in a time when the face of teen parenting is rapidly changing. Parents today can no longer chaperone their teenager in every conversation with their friends, or accompany them at every social event or outing, or police their daily activities. Most conversations, activities, and interaction with teenagers are taking place with no supervision, no rules, and no boundaries. Teenagers today meet, interact, and converse in an ever increasing digital manner. It seems like overnight, they’ve gone from a dial up generation to a digital log on generation. The proof is found in the increasing popularity of myspace, facebook, and two way text messaging. Education institutions and educators themselves interact just as much online with students as they do in the classrooms.
The question for parents today is simply; “How do you connect with the digital teenager, when you are use to analog parenting?” Effective parenting can no longer be a Cassette Tape or CD model. Students today only respond to the IPOD and MP3 style of communication. Do you really know what your teenager is doing? Do you know what your teenager is saying? Do you know where your teenager is going when they leave your presence? What’s really going on in their lives? How do you log into their world? A lot of what we are experiencing with students today also comes from the raise of the popular “Reality TV” shows. When I was growing up, I remember watching shows like “The Cosby Show”, “Different Strokes”, “The Facts of Life”, “Family Ties”, and “Family Matters”. Before there was a PS3′s, Xbox 360′s, and Nintendo Wii’s, there was the regular Nintendo, and Classic Arcade games like Ms. Pac Man, and Donkey Cong. Before there was an I-Phone, people communicated with Beepers and cell phones that looked like a Walkie Talkie and a Two-Way Radio. You remember; it was the cell phone Wesley Snipes used when he played Nino Brown in New Jack City (WOW!! Now there is a throw back!!!)
No longer are those simple television shows on air and no longer are those simplistic video games on the market. Today, we live in a 24/7 connected world where what’s called “age compression” is happening with teenagers. What was the norm for a 20-year old 10 years ago has become the norm for a 14-year old today. That is AMAZING to me!!! While nothing has changed in your biblical responsibility and obligation to parent, the means by which you must become more involved in your teen’s life have become more abundant, creative, and digital.
More than likely, your teenager is increasingly living out their lives online. They’re engaging in deep, intimate, and intense personal conversations online that you REALLY need to be aware of! These deep, intimate, and intense conversations are being broadcast daily on the World Wide Web at a virtually unstoppable pace. To put it mildly, your teenager’s heart, soul, thoughts, and ideas are being exposed on the internet for the entire world to see. There was a recent study released that said 58% of girls and 51% of boys ages 12 – 17 have created an online profile. The number is the highest with boys and girls between the ages of 15 – 17 with 70% being girls and 57% being boys. If you are interested in getting an idea of what I’m talking about, check out www.myspace.com/pastorjwallace, stroll down to my friend list and click view all. As you scroll through my friends, you will see several pictures of students. Click on the picture of the student and check out their virtual world!
I wanted to give you these facts to alarm you of the dangers of the internet as well as the opportunities it presents to be involved in your teenagers life. Effective parenting in 2008 has to move from just preparation for college, the purchase of the first car, and cooking 101. Those things are important and necessary; however, parenting also needs to include the prevention of the multi media traps and pitfalls that are overtaking this generation. Simply put, effective HD PARENTING must include being preventive more so than reactionary! You’re going to have to log on if you want to get connected.
In closing, I would like to share with you some facts a good friend of mine, Ron Luce shares on his website www.battlecry.com. Here is the magnitude of influence multi media has on this generation. He reports:
ATTACK ON A GENERATION
Today’s teens are being attacked by popular culture like no other generation. Hollywood, the music industry, advertisers, and even the mainstream media are using their arsenal of tools to win the battle for our teens’ hearts- and so far they are winning! In order to defeat our enemy, we must know how it thinks and understand the weapons it uses. It is critical that we realize how far-reaching the crisis is- and then we must work together to stop it.
This generation views 16 to 17 hours of television each week and sees on average 14,000 sexual scenes and references each year. That’s more than 38 references every day.
This generation spends three hours a day online and is the first to grow up with point-and-click pornography. Almost 90 percent of teens have viewed pornography online at one of the 300,000 adult websites, most while doing homework.
More than 25 percent of teen-targeted radio segments contain sexual content; 42 percent of the top selling CDs contain sexual content
With more than $128 billion dollars in their pockets, this generation has been targeted by corporate America, who does everything it can to grow brands and profits without any regard to the moral decay of a generation.
In the state of Georgia, there are a total of 906,000 students between the ages of 13 – 18. Only 4% of those students are actively engaged in a local church. Leaving a staggering number of 869,760 LOST STUDENTS IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA ALONE!!! Just imagine the national average!
If we are truly going to be the church of Jesus Christ, these facts must matter enough to keep us up at night praying to God for answers as to how WE can make a difference and impart Godly wisdom and influence to a generation that so desperately needs it and us! May God continue to bless and keep you and your family!