Help children recognize lies and discern truth in the network culture

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Without the voice of parental wisdom, children are more likely to be insecure.

The Fish103.9 topic, CyberParenting Tuesday mornings 6:40 and 7:20am

Digital natives are “children of the Web”; they cannot imagine a world without the Internet. In this environment, children at very early ages can be conditioned to believe that adults are essentially obsolete – they simply need to be tolerated or manipulated. We are perfunctory characters who pay the bills, chauffer from activity to event, staff classrooms and campus administrations, patrol the streets to enforce the law, and yet we are so amazingly irritating, ignorant and irrelevant.

The beliefs to which our children are exposed tell them they are neither important, nor good enough unless they lower standards for personal security and surrender their inherent authority in the name of “freedom”. These beliefs include:

  • Circumstances define me. I am nobody if I am not famous, even if it’s in my own cyber community. And if I am somebody, it’s because I put myself out there with outrageous, audacious reckless abandon. (Tiger Woods, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are examples of crash wrecked lives considered glamorous).
  • Command and control of cyber lives means instant gratification is the new norm. I don’t expect to wait. Personal investment for long-term gain is wishful thinking.
  • In order to be respected, I must dominate others.
  • Rules don’t always apply to me.
  • Prescription drugs are safe to use, doctors prescribe them. Everybody does it.
  • Casual sex is required to be “intimate” or “popular”; use contraceptives and you can have safe sex.
  • Drinking alcohol is not a problem for children just don’t drive while under the influence.
  • Marijuana is safe to use, and the laws against it are stupid. It was the drug of choice of my parents’ generation, so if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

Photo: JOID(Flickr)

“I am a mom who became a journalist during the last leg of rearing my youngest son. For me this was a matter of life and death…I have since come to appreciate how important genuine authority is for our children who can push limits to unimaginable extremes.  Without recognition that genuine authority originates from our Creator… this inherent authority – our children are at risk of surrendering their souls to outrageous untruths of the network culture.” –Joanna Jullien, The Authority In Me (Published by SmashWords, 2011)

On the surface these lies seem like the same old peer pressure of previous generations. What is not understood by many parents today is the amount of intense, surreal pressure applied through network technology that shapes their reality.

There is no shortage of drama to illustrate this disconnect from truth. Kids committing suicide in response to cyberbullying, or the bullies and bystanders being so bold as to promote and/or allow heinous and ruthless cyber-powered harassment campaigns against an individual; or the fact that the modern drug addict or alcoholic looks like your child because networked “friend communities” convince kids that taking prescription pain killers and binge drinking is the norm for youth entertainment, and for many it is a rite of passage.

Every kind of peer pressure we experienced is amplified, as if on steroids, and with the voice of parental wisdom silenced, can become all consuming.

Cyber parenting with a higher purpose

By the same token, the optimist in me sees how the network culture is selecting for character and demanding more leadership from parents – a genuine authority in a caring relationship, yielding deeper and stronger bonds with our children. In this crazy, topsy-turvy network culture, where “everything is situational”, as one teenager put it, young people are craving authenticity from the adults in their lives – starting with sincerely caring, authoritative parents at home.

How to help your child recognize lies and discern truth: Bonding over house rules

The best way to help your child to recognize lies and discern truth is to bond with your children over the establishment of cyber-safe house rules which express your values for personal security, civil regard for others, and the greater good.

Start with Truth

  • The use of cyber technology, much like driving a car, is a privilege, not a right. It must be handled responsibly.
  • Every individual is in charge of her behavior and there are consequences for choices – so it is important to seek wise counsel – listen carefully to trusted adults.
  • You are a child of God, wonderfully made to love and be loved.
  • You were born, your life matters
  • Sexual intimacy should be reserved for the bonds of marriage
  • There is no safe harbor experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Then explore the consequences when believing and acting on the lies of popular culture..

Set your privacy to "friends only" and focus on off-line relationships. Photo: Juliana Coutinho(Flickr)

The law, texting and social media

  • Transmitting sexually explicit photos of minors is felony child pornography. This includes “sexting” which is a current youth trend wherein teens take sexually explicit photos of themselves and text them to a boyfriend or girlfriend, which also later wind up distributed widely through the one-to-many communications of texting and social media.
  • Distributing prescription drugs (easily done in secret via texting communications), even without the exchange of money is a felony.
  • Cyberbullying – education code infraction can result in suspension (check the education code for your state). In some cases, cyberbullying can violate laws against terrorism and hate crimes.

Cyber safety house rules fundamentals

  • All house rules are age-appropriate and reflect your family values.
  • No secrets, no surprises. Computer and Internet access is in a common room and supervised. Transparency is mandatory.
  • Inspect mobile phones because they have the ability to transfer photos, access the Internet, and text.
  • Know and have access to  the tools and applications used by your family.
  • Partner with your child. Have them show you how to use the technology, while you offer the wisdom of your life experience. This is the time to instill values and the norms for what is legal and safe.
  • Children are instructed not to give our personal details for profiles without parental consent.
  • All contacts on phone, email and social websites are monitored by parent. It is an opportunity to catch your children doing things well. Offer praise when it is warranted. If you catch questionable communications, talk about it off-line – do not correct or inquire on their “wall”.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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