Making youth wiser in the social network

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

WiserWelcome to the 2015 Spring edition of Banana Moments Family Business Quarterly. This edition features the book, Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, by Cass Sunstein. I chose this book because we are all challenged to be wiser and nobler than the crowd in the social network and Sunstein offers some simple insights that have significant application at home, about how group behavior impacts the individual and do not correct error of thinking.

What strips a group of wisdom is a simple concept: groupthink.  According to the North American Dictionary, “groupthink” is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.  In other words, groups do not possess wisdom except what individuals are willing to contribute and without mindful leadership individuals have a tendency go along with the group in order to “get along” even if there is a mistake being made or not in their best interest.

In Sunstein’s book, groupthink looks like poor government policies, failed marketing strategies and product decisions. Some of his findings that are relevant for modern family and cyber-powered peer group dynamics include:

Reactionary thinking. Referring to Daniel Kahneman’s theory, there are two systems of thinking: System 1 is rapid, automatic, emotional and intuitive. Whereas slow thinking, System 2, is slow, calculating, and deliberative. Knowing what to do in complex situations, System 1 is not reliable (although good for escaping trouble in a hurry). When System 2 is working well, slow thinking can operate as a safeguard to come up with better solutions to problems. According to Sunstein, “Unfortunately, System 1 is often in charge, and it is responsible for many of the errors that individuals make.” To that end, Sunstein’s thesis is that groups often do not correct individual error, they amplify it. This is especially true for youth dealing with peer pressure amplified by social media and texting.

Suppression of individual contributions & new information. In a groupthink culture individuals feel pressure to withhold information that might lead to conversation to help correct a situation or improve the quality of thinking to avoid a troubling circumstance or unfortunate outcome.

Consider that there are two main group dynamics that impact your child’s perspective: family and peers. And in a hyper-connected world where family life is hectic, and multi-tasking is often the new norm, we might consider that System 1 thinking is dominating our world.  In this environment, it is easy to believe things that are not true, and focus on things that don’t matter. Some examples include:

  • Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a peer groupthink dynamic intensified by cyber communications which amplifies uniformity and censorship as a handful of people conduct harassment campaigns, with many who will pile on while the bystanders say and do nothing. Individuals in a peer community choose to go along with or allow the bully actions, rather than respond to the attacks on the individual by defending the one under attack as if it was yourself.
  • Secrets. Children keep secrets from their parents which harbor risk. Bullies and pedophiles are counting on it.  More importantly, the world confuses private with secret. Many parents and youth believe that children require and are entitled to privacy from parents. Private is personal stuff that is kept from the world because not everyone is trustworthy. Parents, on the other hand, have a duty to respect, but not grant privacy to their children. That means they don’t blab everything they know about their child to others, without permission. The truth is that parents have the inherent authority to a) provide protective cover for and b) offer instructive wisdom to their children – which means that they need to be a trusted resource.  The wise parent does not listen to the world telling them to leave their child alone with internet connectivity.

On being wiser in the modern family

In this hyper-connected world, our aim must be to create a home environment that corrects error or poor choices with compassion and respect for all individuals involved. Parents often confuse correcting their child, with judging them – which is fear expressing condemnation. How does your family culture value the individual? Is it safe to express a dissenting point of view? Are the quirks and foibles of your children ridiculed or explored and treasured? How is your family culture preparing your child to deal with groupthink in the world?


Photo: Sad girl via PinkSherbet Flickr

Photo: Sad girl via PinkSherbet Flickr

Symposium on Meeting the Spiritual and Mental Health Needs of Modern Youth and Families – June 13, 2015, in Citrus Heights, California 


2015 Spring Edition Contents

2015 March Monthly Round Up

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9 FM The Fish Family Morning Show

Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner

Life is Bigger than the Screen – by Julia Shohbozian

2015 April Monthly Round Up

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish Family Morning Show

Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner

Life is Bigger than the Screen by Julia Shohbozian


Banana Moments Foundation is dedicated to strengthening the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. To make a donation, please go go: Donations. Your generous support is greatly appreciated.

Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( 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.