Father Matthew Spencer, St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in Granite Bay, California.

Father Matthew Spencer, O.S.J., St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in Granite Bay, California.

(This is a reprint from my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner Column on Examiner.com)

Last Saturday Fr. Mathew Spencer, O.S.J. spoke to parents about the true and relevant value of virtues essential for modern youth, at a workshop on virtues and Sacraments at St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church in Granite Bay.

Spencer explains that virtue is simply a habitual and firm disposition to do the good that comes from self-discipline. “Virtue is the center point between two opposing extremes, while vices are the extremes themselves,” Spencer said, “And virtue is a habit that is learned through repetition and practice; it is a habit that is learned when we model it for youth in our own lives, and parents are the first and hopefully the best teachers of virtues.”

Spencer offers the example of courage as a virtue that is accompanied by vices. “When taken to the extremes it can be rash (reckless) or cowardice,” he said. “And these extremes are vices.” He offered additional examples of virtues, below:

Virtue >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Vices

Temperance >>>>> Self-indulgences and insensibility

Modesty >>>>> >>>Shamelessness and shyness

Patience >>>>>>>> Anger and lack of spirit

Courage >>>>> >>>Cowardice and rashness

So it is important for parents to examine their own daily habits ranging from how you use technology to how you respond when things don’t go your way or upset or offend you. “When it comes to technology, prudence, or balanced and healthy use, is something that parents must model in their own use,” Spencer said.

Why virtues matter

According to Spencer, a vice is a bad habit that gets formed over and over again, and the more you do it the more difficult it becomes to do good. So learning to how to cultivate good habits is an essential life skill for modern youth. In the network culture, the human experience and all of the emotions that inspire vices are amplified. Everything previous generations experienced as peer pressure is on steroids for modern youth. And when the cyber social realm becomes the single point of reference for life, without virtuous discipline children are more vulnerable to thoughts and actions that can pull them away from their own center point of good, including addictions to devices/apps, internet porn, or drugs and alcohol; cyberbullying and sexual exploitation (sexting). “The more we practice love, patience, and compassion the easier it gets,” he said. “And the great challenge for our youth is wifi, where there is no down time to reflect and good and bad habits.”

Spencer encourages parents to examine their own habits and ask themselves what kind of example am I? “Are we doing what we want our children to do? Are we raising children to be adults or to be children?” he said. Modeling virtues, therefore, is critical to empower them in their own struggle. “Virtuous parents lead to virtuous children,” Spencer said.

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About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).

Photo by: Christi Benz

Photo by: Christi Benz

Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.