Welcome to Chapter 1 – “Todays’ Parenting Challenges” in the book Parenting Well in a Media Age by Gloria DeGaetano.
When I write about Parenting Challenges, I usually find myself writing about the more “typical” challenges that most parents face. However, as much as these challenges exist and are not to be taken lightly, I feel that if we, as a parenting community, continue to over-look the bigger picture, we are going to struggle to find SUSTAINABLE solutions to our “everyday” challenges. Why? Because I feel that many of our ‘smaller’ challenges stem from the big picture, that being, TODAY’S CULTURE. The unfortunate truth is that the Band-Aid “quick fix” approach often fails to meet our real needs as it deals with the symptoms but not the real underlying cause.
In this opening chapter we are going to take a dive into the “bigger picture”, the challenges that life TODAY presents all parents and by “life” I mean more the governing culture that we are all a part of. The question that comes to mind here, as listed by the author is:
“How can parents meet their children’s real human needs and their own human needs in a larger culture that avoids recognition of those needs?”
In this chapter, DeGaetano lists the 5 main challenges that she believes need to be considered and understood in order to hope to address them in a productive manner. After each challenge, she lists a question regarding where this might leave you:
- Challenge #1: Global conglomerates influence behaviors and attitudes on an unprecedented scale.
Related question: Whose messages do you want to be most influencial in shaping the emerging identity of YOUR children – the messages from an industry-generated culture or the messages from YOU?
- Challenge #2: The erosion of community standards through the co-opting of social institutions.
Related question: How can YOU help YOUR children intentionally choose what is in their best interests when the industry-generated culture and social institutions in our communities persist in urging them to make choices not in their best interests?
- Challenge #3: Corporations market specifically to children and their inherent vulnerabilities, with the intention of undermining parental authority and responsibility.
Related question: How can YOU nurture YOUR children’s and teens’ healthy autonomy within an industry-driven culture determined to undermine YOUR authority and responsibility?
- Challenge #4: Lack of relevant information and a pattern of disinformation keep parents in a state of confusion, unsure and unaware.
Related question: How do YOU, the parent, get the relevant information YOU need to parent well when that information is not easily available through common mass media channels?
- Challenge #5: An Industry-generated culture turns mass attention to sensational and mindless content, while downplaying and often deriding analysis and other high-level thought process.
Related question: How can we stop the escalation of sensational, mindless content by the industry-generated culture if human brains are easily conditioned to seek it?
These are all highly thought provoking and concerning points that work synergistically to wreak havoc on, and undermine, our parenting identities and our ability to parent well. Remember the quote by Ellen Goodman from last week:
“The media have become the mainstream culture in children’s lives. Parents have become the alternative.”
The advice and insights from Gordon Neufeld, in his excellent attachment theory based book “Hold onto Your Kids” could not be more relevant now especially when viewed from this perspective – “how do we hold onto our kids and prevent the media from becoming their main compass point and guide?”
Unless we are prepared to really think about some of these questions with urgency and really consider our options and choices, we will continue to be swept along by this media wave with no real idea as to where we will end up. It’s frightening but it’s true.
I would like to refer you to an article by Victoria L. Dunckley, MD, titled:
“Grey Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain”,
The results are pretty clear but as highlighted in challenge #4, the bigger problem is that this type of evidence is hard to find. I encourage you to read this article. The author believes that many parents do have a nagging sense that they “should” make more effort in limiting screen time for their kids but they rationalize that “it’s part of our kids culture”. As you will learn from Parenting Well in a Media Age, it doesn’t have dominate your family culture. Dunckley recommends that you arm yourself with the truth about the potential damage that screen time is capable of imparting – particularly in the young, still-developing brain. And remember, the pre-frontal cortex part of our brain is under construction until we are in our mid 20’s………
I wonder how long will it be before we see compulsory health warnings like this on video games:
HEALTH WARNING – PLAYING THESE GAMES WILL SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPING BRAIN. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 18.
Stay tuned, next week we will be taking the first steps towards helping you make some positive changes and looking specifically at HELPING YOU reclaim your parenting identity. I’m excited!
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