So there is a lot of stuff going on in the world. Parents are worried about what values our kids are exposed to at younger and younger ages. And according to reports they should be worried…
The US National Library of Medicine (pubmed.gov) reports that 90% of adolescents 12 -18 years old have access to the internet. The internet can be a great source of information for adults and children alike. For adolescents who are easily influenced, the internet can have dire consequences. Studies indicate that many adolescents are tempted to initiate searches for pornography. This exposure to pornography at a young age can cause disruptions in normal sexual development. This is not exactly where we want our teenagers to be.
Arguments abound as to whether parents who limit internet availability make a difference in adolescent behavior. Some attest that restrictions only cause kids to go underground. On whichever side of the fence you stand, clearly outside influences are having an effect on most children
95% of children 8-11 years old have accessed the internet in the past four weeks and have access to at least three devices. Almost 50% of these children are accessing social media sites. They like, post and share in the same way that adults do.
This leaves our children open to cyber bullying and potentially to online predators. Not anything that a parent on either side of the issue would want for their children.
Keeping Our Kids Safe
The good news is that the vast majority of parents do monitor what their children are doing online and do have some idea what their kids are up to. But don’t breathe too easily yet. Many kids are able to slip under the radar. Research indicates that parents are more likely to have conversations with their older children (rather than with their younger children) about internet safety .
Parenting magazine suggests the following precautions to keep you child safe online:
- Children younger than age 7 should be accompanied online just as would they need to be accompanied to a public park.
- Think clearly about how much time your kids should be spending online. You can access an online contract to have them sign at safekids.com
- Teach your kids never to give personal information online and never to get together with anyone they “meet” online
- Have any internet activity take place in a central place in your home, under your watch
- Let kids know that they should let you know right away if someone makes them feel uncomfortable online
- Install filters to protect your children from explicit material
You the Parent are the Strongest Influence
Beyond the many safety procedures, it is you the parent that can personally have the strongest influence on your child. Children model their parents, and your actions will be the strongest determinant in the life of your child. It is what they see you doing each day that will implant their values.
The shift to a mobile community has definitely had a great influence on all of us and much of it is positive.
We no longer need to spend hours shopping or standing in line to pay bills. What used to take hours can now be accomplished with the push of a botton. Amazon can deliver almost anything we could possibly need in a matter of hours.
But no matter how we spin it, the ease of accessing information on the internet can take us away from our families and can have less than a positive effect on our children.
As parents, we want to be the loudest voice in our childrens lives. After all, we go to great lengths and sacrifice to raise them and we want to be the prime influence in their lives.
In order to do this we have to think carefully about the messages that we send and allow to influence our children.
Most importantly we have to plan. In the scheme of things we have a short window of time to influence our children and once that window closes, we can no longer affect their opinions and values.
It used to be much easier to influence and transmit our ideas and values to our children, because strong outside influences were not infiltrating our homes.
Transmitting Our Values is a Challenge
Today the challenge is much greater and demands much more thought and care. Without a plan, parents can open themselves up to the winds of the four corners of the earth.
Children need road maps to navigate their lives and we want to be the ones that set that up for them. It warrants some time and thought so that you can chart out the map that you want your kids to follow.
What is important in life? Who should they look up to? Are you a driving force in their lives? Where should your children be putting their efforts? Will your values be passed on to your children and then to their children?
These are not easy questions, but if you want your children to be able to live a life based on your value system, you will have to answer them. Not only answer them, but you will have to find a way to help your children internalize your answers.
If we are good examples to our children, then that is the number one way that we can transfer these values. Think about how your children see you every day. What do they see you doing? How do you express what excites you? What do you live for? These are the things that will speak most loudly to your children, and be strong enough to cancel out all of the other noise that is coming into their lives.
You and your example are the single most important factors that will shape their lives.
Unfortunately, because we are so busy today, our kids may not see much of us. Many kids are being raised by babysitters or housekeepers.
Many Ways to Transmit Values
If that is the case for you, then make sure that when you are around you are there 100% for your kids. If you are there for them, that is what they will remember and your mere presence will help to impart the values that you live by.
Another way to impart your values is by talking to your children. Start conversations. Let them know that they can unload on you. If it can’t be every day, try to make a ritual when they feel that they can talk to you. Maybe before bed, or on the weekends…but make it happen.
We are sometimes so spent that it is difficult to find the energy to do this. But it is vital to spend the time to get to know what your child is thinking so that s/he can come to you if something is not right in his or her world.
These conversations also give you the opportunity to impart your world view to your children. It also creates an atmosphere of sharing and closeness, fertile ground to share your world views.
Reading to your children is a great opportunity to transmit values. Be careful in choosing the stories and the books that you read, so that they are in line with your values.
Some books are just fun and also great for bonding, but every book has a message. It can be a great way to transmit important values to your kids.
An example of this would be my book “Every Kid Can Make a Difference” that was written to instill the value of helping others. The illustrations give kids examples to follow.
There are other great books that tell stories of great leaders and how they overcome challenges such as the biography of Helen Keller. Below is a review taken from Amazon and a case in point as to how books can influence children:
“My 12 year old daughter read this and was so inspired that she stopped talking about Hunger Games and Divergent and started talking about how Helen Keller was her true hero.”
Other books talk about how people made tough decisions because it was the right thing to do.
I’m sure that you remember special books from your childhood as well. Whether you read them yourself, or others read them to you, these stories stuck and they shaped your world view. That is what stories can do for your children.
So the point is that with some thought and effort, you can fill in the blanks in your child’s life. You can be the one that decides what values will be important to your children. This will stand your kids in good stead as they grow and their core values are tested by the internet and their peers.
You are so important in the life of your child. Make your values heard and eventually you will reap the rewards of your child following in your footsteps.