Juvenoia: The kids are all right, even on the Internet
Juvenoia is an exaggerated fear of the effects of social change on youth. Even in an Internet age, the kids are going to be fine. They may even turn out better than us.
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In a great commentary in The New York Times by parent and author Bruce Feiler about his own family and research, I read that “the last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs [from a number of fields] in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively,” and it’s not just unplugging (see this).Skip to next paragraph
Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.
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“Develop[ing] a strong family narrative,” Feiler discovered – helping our kids know who and where they came from with those family-history stories and little rituals (some of the best are the hokiest) clans develop together – helping our children have a sense of family history, is one of the best things parents can do to help them develop self-esteem, resilience, identity, and all the other good things that sustain safety, mental health, and good relationships online and offline.
“The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned,” Feiler says psychologists have found. Think about the safety that ensures.
More focus needed on internal protections
Probably because the online safety field believed risk and safety were somehow all about technology, its messaging has always been weighted way too much on the side of external tools for kids’ well being – filtering and monitoring software, parental control, abuse reporting, school rules, laws. What about the resilience, confidence, empathy, moral compass – the internal protections – that help them deal with challenges and connect with others successfully for the rest of their lives, the “tools” more important than ever in a networked world?
Way back in 2008 a national task force on Internet safety found that a child’s psychosocial makeup and home and school environments were better predictors of online risk than any technology a child uses.
So there’s something really substantial, now, for concerned parents to go on: Know that neither your child’s inner strength nor your influence can be swamped by technology and that, even if you believe they can be, there’s something you can do about it – as well as something you can do to reinforce healthy child development.
You can help your children know themselves better by knowing “they belong to something bigger than themselves … the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness,” Feiler wrote.
When you think about it, we haven’t actually lost that ancient tribal support David Finkelhor referred to in his 2010 talk. We’re building on it as we work toward a better balance between internal and external protection for children and families.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at Net Family News.
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