Protecting our children
Recently I attended a great seminar on the ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People’. This seminar covered a whole range of areas including: cyber-bullying, brain development, the impact of violent video games, a drug and alcohol update and the impact of pornography on young people. As you can see it was a bit of a heavy day but was very informative in its content.
In the media recently there has been a lot of attention paid to the issue of pornography, both its accessibility and impact, especially on young people. There is no doubt in my mind that while the media and internet have bought great advances in our society they have also bought some very big challenges for us as parents. I know it is hard to compare generations, but I feel that while some of the pressures facing today’s generation of young people and my own might be the same, the external forces are far greater today.
Take the issue of pornography for example. Back in my day the only way to access such material meant going into a store and buying it or finding an adult’s hidden stash. Usually there was no way you would come across it unless you were really looking for it and the content was much tamer. Today studies show that the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11, that 70% of boys have seen pornography by age 12, and 100% by 15 which to me is a very sobering thought.
A consistent theme from the seminar is the important role that we as parents play in guiding and protecting our children as they grow. Sadly due to a number of different factors our children have become more vulnerable. This has been impacted by globalisation and marketing of damaging messages and materials; erosion of moral standards and family breakdown. Furthermore we live in a society where often both parents are working and everyone is very busy. Some have forgotten that parenting is not a popularity contest and instead of protecting and guiding, some parents have sought to become friends with their children. Oh on a little side note, does that advertisement by MLC, where the parents seem to be sucking up to the petulant teen who has not been able to go to the concert really annoy anyone else or is it just me? This ad portrays the parents as grovelling to the teen as if they have done something horribly wrong. I have to turn the ad off whenever it comes on because I want to reach into the screen and slap some sense into somebody and I think it is mostly the parents!!
Over the years we have seen schools being expected to do more and more to guide the personal and moral development of young people because it is happening less and less at some homes. Whenever the media brings up the next big issue for young people the question always seems to be, “What are we doing to educate our young people about this in our schools?”
Sadly I think we are seeing a society where parents too readily delegate more and more to the school.
Parents, it is time for us to take a stand for the sake of our young people. They might not like it initially, especially if we have allowed bad habits to form already, but we need to become involved in our young people’s lives, not as friends but as guiding and protective parents. This does not mean that we have to become the fun police. Just because things are different to what we like (think especially of music here) does not mean it is bad but we need to be discerning. We should be aware of what our children are involved in; what they are taking into their developing, but nowhere near mature, brains and the impact of these things on their mental health and development. Most importantly we need to establish some safe boundaries to protect our young people and then stick to them.
Let me ask you
- What music are your kids listening to? I don’t mean the doof-doof beat, I mean the lyrics of the songs they are into? What are the messages they are taking in through these words every day?
- What is the content of the video games they are playing? Violent games do have an impact of young people’s behaviour.
- Are you aware of what sites they are visiting on the internet? Do you have internet filters set up to protect your children from dangerous and unhealthy content? Seriously it is us as parents who should be talking to our kids about sex not the pornography industry that in the USA alone makes about $13.3 billion a year.
- Finally are you aware of where your children are and roughly what they are up to? Too many young people are left to wander the street and do whatever they want and this leads them into trouble.
I know this article may come across as fairly strong but I do this because this issue is so important. Our young people need us to do our job as parents so that they can grow to be all that they were meant to be. Unfortunately, as someone who has worked with young people in one form or another over the last twenty years, I have had to pick up too many pieces from young lives that have been broken or damaged because their parents were asleep at the wheel. If we take responsibility for our role as parents and for the young people under our care, then I believe we can make a hugely positive impact on the lives and mental health of the young people of this generation and the generations to come.
As the school Chaplain my role is to support and serve all the members of the college community. So if I can be of assistance to you or your family or if you ever wish to give me any comments or feedback on these ‘Chaplain’s Corner’ articles then please email me on: email@example.com