Executive summary

  • In a world punctuated by dynamic, innovative and disruptive social media trends parents can easily perceive that they have very little control over the security and behavior of their tech-savvy children.
  • When parents harbor a fearful desire to be in control of the devices and the children they inadvertently undermine their inherent authority to educate their child how to be responsible and trustworthy in the family.
  • Tips to engage your tech-savvy child and impart wisdom

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There is no doubt that the advent of mobile connectivity in the hands of youth was a game changer for growing up and for being a parent. The advent of mobile devices in the hands of youth circa 2004 was a wakeup call for me, an American mom of two grown sons. That is when my younger son hit middle school and purchased his own mobile device with paper-route money. And shortly thereafter a tsunami of social media and smartphones and devices came rushing into the social arena as purveyors of platforms and apps took hard aim at the child and adolescent market (think: MySpace/Facebook/Instagram/Snap, etc.).

In this hyper-connected, “always on” environment peer pressure is amplified. Indeed it is much easier to believe things that are not true (i.e., ideas about drug and tobacco use, cyberbullying and sexual exploitation) and act on thoughts that are beneath human dignity. So let’s consider a couple of thoughts that might help gain some perspective about the parent-child bond and the experiences of tech-savvy youth:

First, children have always been born into adult communities. These adult communities are called families. And families have always suffered with adult issues: anxiety/depression, addictions, sexual exploitation and bullying/abuse. It is all learned behavior, passed down from generation to generation.

Secondly, what is different today, however, is that cyber connectivity ushers in these adult issues with great intensity in their online peer communities, and it is much easier for youth to perceive that their parents or other trusted adults could never accept them because their experiences inspire shame (which kills communication).

In this way, I perceive the power crisis of mobile connectivity in the hands of youth as an opportunity to learn something truly meaningful and practical about the vulnerability and resilience of the human condition, break cycles of hostility associated with adult issues and thereby strengthen the parent-child bond a deeper and closer relationship than that of previous generations.

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Two truths about power struggles with tech-savvy youth

A fearful desire to be in control of other people and circumstances fuels power struggles. There are two simple truths to make sense of the power crisis mobile devices introduces into the parent-child relationship.

Truth 1: Your child was born fully endowed with powers of self-determination (resilience) and your job is to teach them self-discipline. Children at any age are actually in charge of themselves (in thought and deed) and need to learn discipline which involves exercising self-control. While their pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for executive functioning and reasoning) is still in development, they are nevertheless born with the same powers of the soul as adults which include: memory, intellect and will. These are the inner powers of self-determination that belong to every individual and which make life-long learning and civil liberty possible.

Truth 2: A parent’s capacity to instill self-discipline is undermined by fear. A fear-based mentality does not acknowledge a child’s personal power to learn how to use their memory, intellect and will wisely. In fact, fear inspires the parents to worry, to over emphasize rules and reward compliance, and to express their opinions about what is happening in their child’s world which carries with it judgment that inspires hostility thus killing open communication. It is easy to keep risky secrets in a cyber-powered world, and make no mistake, your child is vulnerable to harboring unsafe situations, experiences and thoughts because they your judgment.

With these two truths in mind it is possible to consider that power in the parent-child bond is shared; and with open communication there is an executive exchange of information in order to foster a human connection essential to experience a sense of security and belonging at home when things in the child or teen’s world get rough and/or inspire shame.

This shared power is something I call “fearless collaboration” wherein the parent makes peace with the fact that they do not have control over the technology, drug and social innovations, or the child. The child is in charge of him or herself and this truth must be respected if we are to become a trusted resource to impart wisdom for every stage of life.

Do you believe that your child has inalienable powers of self-determination  to withstand the consequences of their choices and any adversity they may encounter in their cyber-powered lives?

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Relational characteristics of tech-avvy youth

Fearless collaboration

Below are some ways that you may fearlessly collaborate with your child so that they will want to come and talk to you about the things they are experiencing in life, on and offline.

Accept that your child already has adult powers of intellect and free will. You cannot know what they are thinking and doing and how their life experiences are shaping their worldview unless they choose to share it with you. Therefore it must be understood that your tech-savvy youth is the expert on their childhood and teen years. Respect this truth when you address them in order to foster mutual respect and trust essential to open communication.

Get to know your child. Get interested in who your child is and their interests – especially with regard to apps and devices, drugs and peer issues (such as bullying, anxiety/depression and suicidal ideation).

Family-approved apps lists. Establish a family-approved app listing wherein every member of the family only downloads apps that are reviewed with parents for security and value to enhance life and your child’s sense of connection in their peer communities, hobbies and other interests (pros and cons). In this way, you are encouraging open communication about the latest social media apps and games that capture your child’s imagination. It is an opportunity to get your child or teen to open up about how their life is going and you can impart wisdom.

Impart wisdom and check your opinion. Your tech-savvy child or teen is swimming in a sea of cyber-powered judgment. And human opinions are always limited understanding of a situation or a person at any stage of life, and tend to harbor a fearful desire to be in control and a current of judgment. For example, a parent may have formed an opinion about a friendship as being acceptable because the student is popular, or gets straight A’s in school. The reality is that you do not know anything about your child and their relationships unless they choose to tell you about it…even if you have witnessed something and think you know all about it, until your child tells you from their perspective you do not know all about it.

Wisdom, on the other hand, involves thoughts that bring about peace, empower self and others, and transcend religious dogma. Some examples of wisdom thoughts include:

  • Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
  • I hear and I forget; I see and I understand; and I do and I remember. (Confucius)
  • Liberty already belongs to the soul, and it must be defended one heart and mind, one family and one community at a time. (The founding of the United States according to this mustard seed of faith that one Creator of humanity grants all individuals intelligent life and free will. This is power that can never be taken, but is easy surrendered to the bully, the drug, or the device. You stand for nothing, you fall for anything).

The question for parents of tech-savvy youth is this: do you believe that your child has the same power of self-determination as the next person, to withstand the consequences of their choices and any adversities they may encounter in their cyber-powered lives?

To build your own confidence in your child to come to you with issues and concerns in their lives and to become responsible users of technology at home and in the community, book an appointment with Joanna: Fresh Start Family Culture Parenting and Family Life Coaching

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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.

Peace on earth begins with peace at home.

Core Connectivity – A Foundation to Empower Families

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Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.