Parents today have plenty of reason to be fearful about the social media landscape our children are navigating. The “internet of everything” virtually guarantees that children at early ages are going to be exposed to people, information and ideas that are not necessarily in alignment with our own values and introduce risks. The number one concern of parents today is cyberbullying, which is the first and most common on-line experience that can leave a child completely hopeless and isolated for long periods of time – and at times it does not feel survivable. Stranger danger takes on a new level of evil, as pedophiles have access to information about tweens and teens through networked communities and chat rooms, and they are very cunning about mimicking the trustworthiness and love kids crave in their quest to discover their fit with their peer communities.
What tech-savvy teens need from parents
This generation of teens is incredibly lonely – a great irony considering the ubiquitous role cyber technology plays in the life of modern teens with ongoing conversations in large networks populated by group photos, shared selfies and “likes” 24 hours a day. Contrary to how the teens are behaving at home (hiding in plain sight, reluctant to talk about the things that are disturbing their peace, and sometimes hostile), they want and need to feel connected to parents more than ever – but they can easily be convinced that their parents cannot understand or will reject how their teenagehood is informing them. Fear of rejection is prominent; modern youth get a lot of fear and fakery in the social network. As a result, the level of trust and intimacy the kids are seeking today is more than what was demanded of previous generations of parents. Kids today need to be able to talk about the things they witness, experience or engage in that inspire fear, shame and anger without fear of rejection from parents. This requires a higher level of trust that cannot be faked. It is an authenticity which can only be described as fearlessness.
What does trust look like in the parent-child bond?
Indeed parents do not have control over the decisions children make every day, on and off-line. And while the temptation is great to try to exercise control over the devices (with parental controls), or become focused on your child’s compliance to the many, specific rules established to “keep a handle on things,” the simple truth is that the only control parents have is over their own heart and mind and over the family culture.
So the most important thing modern youth need from parents is a commitment to building trust, which requires setting expectations and holding individuals accountable according to the characteristics of being a trustworthy individual at home, at school and in the workplace. Below are a couple of considerations for strengthening trust bonds and establishing open communication about life’s events for you and your child:
Expectation management. Be sure to establish expectations for your child that are tied to who they are as a human being, rather than emphasizing performance expectations such as GPA, sports achievements, and career choices. Some of these characteristic are: honest, patient, kind, compassionate. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
House rules that empower. There should be very few house rules that serve as points of conversation to reinforce the values that reinforce the character of trustworthy individuals. The fewer the house rules, and the more conversation the better. Below are some criteria for establishing house rules.
I believe that God gave us generations to learn how to love one another as He does: fearlessly. My faith and life experience has taught me that the first thing we need to do in order to become fearless, is recognize shame for what it is. A signal emotion to change course, to correct thoughts and actions so as to avoid patterns of behavior that nurture pain and torment.
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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).
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, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.