If you have a teen, you know all too well how mobile connectivity intensifies the power crisis for teens and parents. It is not new that teens feel like their parents are irrelevant, and it is true that our children’s adolescence is informing them radically differently than that of our own. Modern youth are conditioned differently for authority. Rather than as a matter of position or title, authority is perceived more as a relational experience of feeling validated in a world interconnected without interference from hierarchy, time or distance.
Some of the ways in which youth may be unduly influenced in this hyper networked environment include the following perceptions:
• Parents are perceived as ignorant and less relevant; they cannot understand the pressures of the modern teen experiences
• It is easy to believe that everything I need to know, I can simply “google” – hence the role of parents, teachers, coaches and a benevolent deity to impart wisdom is shoved to the side
• The cyber-powered peer community becomes a point of reference for life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
• Seeking personal validation from the “likes” and number of contacts in your social media network
• Confusion between trust (which is verifiable among humans) and faith (which is reserved for God because it requires no proof)
• A belief that adolescents need privacy from parents, which is easily confused with keeping secrets (which harbor risk such as bullying and sexting)
• There can be no rest; the communication channels to the world are “always on” as texting has conditioned us for instant and efficient transmissions without downtime.
And because the kids get a lot of fear and fakery in their cyber-powered realm, they will be very receptive to authenticity at home where it is safe (i.e., no condemnation) to talk about what is happening on and off line.
Match parental wisdom with your teen’s expertise
While the fundamentals of the human experience have not changed, the circumstances for growing up have radically changed. So it is important to acknowledge that you have not traveled the road your teen is walking at their age, you are interested in their experiences and perceptions, and you have insights and lessons from your life experience that can help. In order to impart your wisdom, however, it is imperative that you cultivate a willing heart and mind, which is done by demonstrating a genuine interest in what your child is experiencing and their opinions or thoughts about it – without freaking out and lobbying for your opinion or judgment. This is how to discipline a generation empowered by mobile connectivity; by engaging their intellect and will. So when you acknowledge that your child is learning things that you may not know about or have firsthand experience with, you are taking the first step towards validating them and then you can encourage them to talk about what is happening and their personal reactions. It is guaranteed you will learn as much as you have to teach.
- Always give them credit for having the intellect and the will to learn from their experiences.
- Listen so you can learn more about who your child is and their interests and concerns
- Offer your insights including how your faith informs you for acquiring wisdom for living an abundant life.
- The best way to offer is to ask them if they want to know what your thoughts are about the topic or situation, and be careful to talk about it from your point of view.
Create a family culture of transparency and open communication
Ultimately, the aim is to create a culture of transparency and respect for the individual which fosters open communication… so no secrets, no surprises. The big idea here is to validate your teen in a genuine way that will counter the undue influences from their cyber-powered peer communities.
- Keep an open mind and let your child show you how he uses social media and other apps
- Accept that your child may know too much for her own good (Jesus knows all about it)
- Acknowledge your child’s God-given ability to think for himself (James 1:5 tells us God grants wisdom to those who lack it and seek it)
- Re-affirm with your child the boundaries that will keep her secure, such as privacy settings, disabling location services, and avoid connecting with people you have not met in person
- Respect privacy but don’t grant it. Be clear that your role as guardian is to monitor the communications to ensure that the nature of the ideas, content and conversations your child is experiencing is consistent with their values and that your child is secure. Check your own motivation (i.e., are you seeking control of your child or to help your child be in control?), and tame any desire to offer opinions or influence your child’s choices and relationships. When your motivation is consistently to help your child stay in control of her life by helping her maintain boundaries to keep bullying, exploitation and addiction at bay, that is the authenticity she will not get from her cyber-powered communities.
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 Examiner.com, 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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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.