In his feature on parenting in Fatherly, Modern Parenting is a Scam on America’s Middle Class, Patrick Coleman offers his observation that modern trends in society have shifted the burden on parents to produce “workers” for corporations, and as a result youth and families are going into serious debt for secondary education.
According to Coleman, “Modern parenting is not so much motivated by forging loving bonds with our kids that help them become good people. Modern parenting is far more concerned with building good employees from birth. And that’s completely backward.” This observation explains some of the hysteria around getting kids into the “right college”. Think about the recent college admissions scams. No doubt, parents are experiencing pressure to get kids to conform or fit into the corporate model so that they can meet the criteria of corporate employers. More importantly, there is pressure for young and old alike to become prolific consumers.
This is the challenge of mobile connectivity in the hands of youth. Popular social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Snap are ultimately consumer platforms. The data collected about youth as individuals and as a generation is sold to commercial interests so that it might be easy to believe that personal freedom and social acceptance is determined by consumer power.
Recently, Naked Security by Sophos reported that Google has been identified by child protection advocates as violating the Children’s’ Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA forbids the collection of data without parent consent and according to this report, Google has been collecting data from users 13 years and younger without permission. They collect this data to track their online activities so they can help commercial interests shape their consumer habits.
I have found that tech-savvy youth value trust. It is their currency, and the commercial interests seek to mimic this trust by gathering their personal data in order to exploit them. So when parents recognize that their children are wired for relationship despite pressures to conform to commercial influence, it is possible to connect and maintain open communication about how your personal responses to social media and other social influences contradict or support your core values.
From a parenting perspective we must be mindful whether creating employees and consumers has become more important to us than nurturing trustworthy character in our children. The risk is allowing the ends to justify the means which usually involves compromising integrity (i.e., taking actions that compromise your core values). For example, when parents shield kids from consequences of poor decisions because they fear it will hurt their chances to get into a good school, get them kicked off a team ruining their chance at a college scholarship; or when parents complete their assignments to make sure their GPA is not affected, this is not allowing the child to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions, which is a core expectation of a trustworthy person.
There are two main ways parents can nurture trustworthy character in their children: 1) by modeling the qualities of being trustworthy; and 2) giving your child undivided attention.
Modeling trustworthy character. Building trust in yourself and others is something that is modeled and talked about openly so that you and your children can evaluate challenges and choices according to your core values. In my mind, some of the qualities of a trustworthy person that I strive to model include:
- Love God and then others as myself (always looking for common ground, treating others as I wish to be treated)
- Taking responsibility for my own thoughts and actions
- Holding myself and others responsible for missteps and offenses with grace
- Listens and accepts another point of view without judging it
- Patient especially when I believe I have been wronged
- Speaks only positive things about others
- Honest and sincere
- Defends those who are weaker, suffering or under assault
- Good work ethic
- Think for myself
- Life-long learner from my own mistakes and successes
Attention management. Be mindful of how much divided attention you are giving. How often are you in the room together and you are paying attention to your phone?
- Give your child undivided attention. When you are present with your child, put down your phone and just be accessible.
- Get interested in what interests your child, especially if it’s gaming. Then you can engage in meaningful conversations about how their online experiences are informing them according to your core values.
- Develop screentime/social media limits with your child to do other activities such as sports, family dinner, reading, writing, etc.
- Give your child a hand signal to interrupt you. When your child knows how to interrupt in ways that demonstrate respect for you as a person, this is an opportunity to you to demonstrate respect for your child as a person by listening to their inquiry without making them feel like they are a burden, or that their request is silly.
Children are especially vulnerable to these commercial pressures to which can lead to mental health issues including anxiety, depression and addictions. The best antidote to commercial and other cyber-powered social influences is to focus on the kind of the person you seek to be in order to make the world a better place at home and in the community.
To book an event or a private session about creating a family culture that fosters parent confidence, builds trust in family relations, and promotes resilience in youth, contact Joanna.
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.
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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.