It’s likely that you’ve overheard students grumble about the rules their parents enforce (especially when those rules are related to technology and media). Parents are always working to catch up to new trends in an effort to ensure that their child is protected from a variety of influences and dangers. As youth leaders, we know the difficulty of this challenge as we attempt to stay up to date on an ever-changing youth culture. Organizations such as Walt Mueller’s Center for Parent/Youth Understanding provide helpful support in this challenge.
Despite our best efforts, and the efforts of parents, we always seem to find ourselves one step behind the development of youth culture.
As a result, students often perceive their parents’ perspectives on technology and media as out-of-touch, paranoid, or old-fashioned. Youth leaders are often called to stand in the middle between parents and students as they struggle to understand each other on this issue.
We decided to ask several young adults to identify and reflect on a technology and media rule that their parents enforced when they were teenagers. Looking back was it helpful or do they still struggle to understand where their parents were coming from? Our goal isn’t to show how parents succeed or fail in this area. Rather, we desire to illustrate that there is no magic set of guidelines for parents to enforce. Youth leaders must help parents think critically about which unique guidelines will serve their family best. We hope the perspectives below will provide insight, affirmation, or correction for parents as they continue to face this challenge.
Texting and calling limited to 3:00-7:00 p.m. every day.
“This was before the iPhone, so this feature relegated my flip-phone to little more than a paper-weight. I can better understand the purpose of this rule now, but I wish my parents had approached this restriction differently. I have no problem agreeing that barring me from texting during school or at 2:00 AM was a good idea. However, since my parents never actually discussed the reasoning behind this restriction with me, it sent a strong message that I wasn’t worthy of their trust. Teens might never agree with the rules their parents enforce. However, the importance of openly communicating the purpose or reasoning behind rules can’t be underestimated.”
Cable TV turned off during the summer.
“To be honest, this always seemed like a money saving tactic. My parents would make comments like, ‘We don’t want you to waste your summer glued to a TV.’ I came to resent this reasoning a bit because it seemed to infer that I was the type of lazy kid that would sit in front of the TV every day. Looking back, I recognize this as one of the wisest rules my parents ever enforced. My summers were packed with hanging out with friends, spending time outside, and working side jobs. Disconnecting allowed me to build relationships and form experiences that I will always remember. I would encourage parents today to think of ways that they can help their teens disconnect in similar ways.”
All movies screened by online movie reviews.
“My parents diligently screened each movie we watched at home or went to see in theaters. I remember feeling disappointment or frustration when my parents would veto certain movies based primarily on the opinion of a stranger. As an adult, I believe that guarding your heart from language, sexual content, and violence is important. However, I’m not sure that the use of online movie reviews alone taught me how to judge the full value of a movie. An online movie review fails to convey the message, perspective, or inspiration that a movie contains. I believe parents can help their teens learn to assess the value and message of a movie alongside its moral content.”
Filtering software used on the computer.
“I look back on my parents’ decision to use filtering software on the computer and think, ‘Wow, they were a little ahead of the game.’ Today, this seems like a no-brainer, but back then very few people understood the danger of giving their teen complete access to the internet. Sure, the software was a pain at times, considering anytime I wanted to watch a cat video on YouTube I had to get my parents to unlock the web page. However, I know my parents were doing everything they could to protect me from exposure to sexually explicit content or other inappropriate things. This was a case in which my parents foresaw dangers and worked proactively to defend me from them. I believe that parents must still work to anticipate pitfalls for their children and act proactively to protect them.”
The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the stances or opinions of USA/Canada NYI.