Every generation of parents faces its own unique challenges, although a quote attributed to Socrates suggests that some descriptions of youth culture cross generational lines:
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers”.
Obviously the expression of alarm over the behavior of the young is nothing new, but there are some behaviors among young people that are not only new, but are also outside the knowledge and understanding of previous generations.
As technology changes our landscape with a dizzying speed, our children are being exposed to situations that often require more maturity than they are prepared to handle. While 12-year-olds of my generation were given the independence to take the bus to school, babysit for the neighbors, and have a paper route, 12-year-olds of today are given the opportunity to navigate on-line social networks involving unknown adults around the globe, have phone and email “conversations” virtually 24/7 in total privacy, and post photographs in public places that can be viewed by friends and strangers alike. Often their use of technology is not monitored because they are more “tech-savvy” than the adults in their household. My daughters had to teach me how to text, use Facebook and Instagram, and send pictures on my phone. When they were in 6th grade it never occurred to me that I would need to discuss on-line chat rooms, or internet privacy with them.
Today’s youth have embraced technology with a passion. It’s not unusual to see a fourth grader pull out a cell phone after school to call someone. Students begin texting their friends as soon as they leave their classrooms. Earlier this year I discovered fourth graders who were posting videos of themselves on YouTube with inappropriate content. Just last year I learned about Musically, which has already shut down, being replaced by another social networking site. I’d like to suggest that you talk to your children, monitor their computer use, ask to check their phone, and continue to do so until you are absolutely sure that they have the maturity to handle the situations in which they might find themselves. I read recently about a middle school principal in New Jersey who stated “there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!” I urge you to consider the wisdom of his suggestion.