I believe that our children and teens are influenced greatly by two things; media entertainment and their peers. They are exposed to information and viewpoints they see on the television and movie screen, and that which they hear from adults and friends in their circle. It is also my opinion that we must preserve our children’s innocence to allow them to focus only on developmentally appropriate information and just plain being kids. When they are exposed to subject matter that is inappropriate for their level of understanding, it contaminates the natural development of their self-concept and their perception of the world in which they live. Because of this fact alone, parents and other primary caregivers must be the gatekeepers of what their children are exposed to.
When we parents and grandparents were kids, the decency levels in television programming was much higher, but TV show producers and writers continuously tried to “push the envelope” with sexuality (as it’s done today) to engage their adult viewers. Back then, it was less likely for children to even see those risks because parents’ autocratic rule controlled children’s access to the television, if the family even had one. Broadcasting also ended late at night with stations playing the national anthem and then nothing but white noise until morning programming began.
The influence from peers has always been a factor as well, but back then, it was less of a concern for parents than it is today because of what I mentioned in the paragraph above; anything kids were exposed to was less harmful than what they are exposed to today. If children were exposed to less harmful and inappropriate material, then the influence from peers was also less of a concern.
Now fast forward to what our children have access to today. They have handheld devices with instant access to the Internet, cheaper portable computing devices, television and radio channels galore, video games that leave nothing to the imagination, and an entertainment industry that has made it clear it is not concerned about the innocence of our children. That means the responsibility of protecting children lies solely on the parent and few have accepted that fact. Some adults believe that we should allow our children access to this incredible technology while others want to ban them from it completely.
Parents are responsible for the safety of their children and when I say PARENTS, I’m referring to anyone who cares for children; foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, step parents, etc. That being said, I believe there are two types of parents who pose the greatest danger to their children. The first type has little knowledge of technology and the Internet and yet, allows the children to have unsupervised handheld devices and devices in the bedroom with television, social media apps like Facebook, and Internet access. The second type does have an adequate level of knowledge and starts out with good intentions of monitoring devices, sharing passwords, and allowing activities similar to what the first parent type allows. The problem with this second type is that he or she initially sees the child using it all responsibly and then becomes fooled into believing that monitoring isn’t really necessary. Either that or the monitoring just becomes tiresome and it tapers off. Then the child matures, her growing curiosity and friends entice her to explore more. The greatest danger imposed by both of these types of parents is that their children expose yours and mine to inappropriate subject matter through their influence (assuming you and I have limits for our children and are constantly monitoring their cell phone and Internet activities.)
Let me just state up front that I don’t think children under the age of 13 should have cell phones and no one under the age of 16 should have a Facebook, regardless of what age Mark Zuckerberg thinks. Sure, I’ve known 11 and 12 year olds were ready to handle a cell phone responsibly, and 14 and 15 year olds who might very well handle a Facebook page appropriately, but it’s not just about the child being ready. The bigger issue is that once children or teens are given more avenues to communicate or be influenced by their peers, it becomes addictive. They then spend less time concentrating on themselves, their talents, their dreams, and spend less time alone to become a more peaceful and centered person. tapped phone signs
We shouldn’t spy on our children and teens, we should monitor them with full disclosure. In all fairness to them, our children and teens should know we are listening and reading because it’s our job to keep them safe. That means when you’re ready to allow your child to have a cell phone, you control who he can call and who can call him, and that the phone should come with limitations; where it can be used and for how long, what time it should go off, and monitoring software that will allow you to read his texts (with his knowledge). When you’re ready to give your teenager a Facebook page, you establish rules and boundaries around its use, including when and for how long, no computers in bedrooms, and that you will share access to their page. Sure, this is all additional work we modern parents never anticipated having to do, but so what. Our kids are worth it so we best begin making time for this new responsibility.
And what about privacy for teenagers? They scream that they deserve to have privacy from parents and I agree to an extent. But until the child reaches the age of 18, the parent is responsible for the child’s well being. Therefore safety trumps privacy. Parents can monitor less and less during the final two years of high school but they should be able to “check-in” occasionally to stay informed. A teen who knows that her parent might be reading, is less likely to do or say things she shouldn’t.