There is a new scientific study reported on a recent ABC newscast that suggests that excessive discussion of problems by teenage girls does more harm than good. One particular malady that can manifest itself is low self esteem and depression. When one realizes that women tend to talk approximately three times more than men, one soon realizes that there is a lot of discussion of problems that teenage girls are focusing on.

Personally speaking, when I visit my sister in Jacksonville I notice that my niece spends an inordinate amount of time on her my space account or even with various I.M. services such as A.O.L. instant messenger. It soon becomes obvious that girls have a lot to talk about and use up a lot of time to do their talking either verbally or virtually. The question becomes who do they end up talking to and ultimately what is it that they are talking about.

This got me to thinking that raising a child in today's world is light years from when I raised my first over 15 years ago. The challenges are great and the risks are far greater to youth than they were a decade and a half ago. The advance of technology and the proliferation of the internet and websites, chat rooms and other sites can become a great challenge to the youth of today not to become seduced by this and in fact in some cases to become a victim of the predators who lurk in a dark netherworld ready to attack the unsuspecting and the vulnerable. Shouldn't we as parents be more aware of this and prepare and protect our children from harmful and dangerous solicitations.

Also, another thought that comes to mind is what do we as parents do to help our child through this veritable minefield of new and shifting challenges that they face. Are we doing as much as we can or as much as we should and when and where do we do our work to prepare our children for an extremely complex and everchanging world. Where will they receive proper advice and develop true values if they do not receive it in the home.

How much actual quality time does the parent of today spend with their children as opposed to the parent of 30 or even 10 years ago. Where are the opportunities to form the bonds that arise from social interaction with a child. If a child has questions or issues that they face if they can not find it in their parents where will they turn. Once again, from the cheap seats, look at what is available to the teen of today and even the parent of today.

Computers and unrestricted use of the internet Video games, dvd's and rental programs such as Netflix and Blockbuster, hundreds and hundreds of cable channels, cd's with graphic lyrics, movies on demand, music on demand, Ipod's, Iphones, cell phones, text messaging, mega movie theaters with 16 and 24 movies, the list continues …

James Lackey comments: 

It has never been easier to be a parent. Kids today are the best and brightest due to specialization. Besides riding a bicycle on the street, I believe it's generally safer today than when I was a kid. All the new technology makes it so easy for kids to learn and parents to monitor their progress and safety.

It’s never been harder to be a petty criminal. I can’t imagine even getting away with even a fist fight now a days. There are security cameras, and cell phones with 911 and picture cams, everywhere.

Not to mention the illnesses, like flu or pneumonia, that killed kids even 30 years ago. A hundred years ago many kids died before they were teens. How about the ability for kids to take extreme risks on the fields of play? There is much less worry about debilitating injuries from sports. I have had several fractures from racing that took me out for three to six months, that 30 years ago would have affected me for life. Today kids have outpatient procedures and are back in six weeks. Not to mention all the knee injuries that 20 years ago ended careers, ACl type injuries today are fixable.

Finally, there have been times over the last 100 years where segments of society were not certain about, diet, exercise, training and drugs. Just 30-40 years ago too many people smoked, ate too much bad food, didn't exercise, and so called 'experimented' with drugs and alcohol.

It is without a doubt that a higher than usual percentage of people that experiment with any drugs, destroy their lives. If you eat too much you will eventually be sick and unhappy. If you smoke, you are now a social outcast, and there is a very high chance you will be very sick in 20-50 years.

It must have been much tougher to be a parent in and after the depression. Your kid could get sick and die. Your kid could, not knowing any better, find an opium den, get sick and die. Kids could get sick and die from a shortage of food. During WW2 a huge percentage of young kids were forced into war with a high risk of death.

Yet usually, in the agrarian society of 100-200 years ago, they simply worked our kids to death.

George Zachar adds:

Parenting seems daunting now because of all the choices we have to make. It's no longer one neighborhood school, one community newspaper, the local church, three TV channels, etc.

The range of educational/recreational/informational choices means parents have to process a lot more material to exercise their role. This is on top of a stressful work life for most.

Raising kids in the same town I grew up in, I can't say the risks are appreciably higher. Sex 'n drugs 'n rock 'n roll were ubiquitous when I was teen too.

I am in Lack's camp. The upsides are vastly greater now than for prior generations.

John de Regt writes:

There are new opportunities and new risks, and some of the old risks are less. While the threats of wars and sports/play injuries may be fewer, the traps of drugs, video games/Internet, sexual predators, AIDS, and drunken drivers justifiably keep us up at night.

Parenting is a lifelong activity, in any era, and we as parents always need to be aware of possible threats and risks to our kids. 

Alex Forshaw suggests:

The "big bad culture that's out to eat our children" idea is silly and exaggerated. Sheltered kids will have a marginally higher "survival" (i.e. reaching all the socioeconomic checkpoints their parents set out for them) rate until they get into a good college, at which point they will go nuts. If they don't go nuts.

Humans are a lot more adaptive than our feel-sorry-for-everything culture gives them credit for, and social mechanisms (feeling copiously sorry for someone who is down, granting all kinds of exceptions to people who are depressed, etc.) are responsible for as much harm as real dangers from the wider world.

Given the human memory's selection bias of preserving good memories and killing bad ones, better awareness of current problems (which are biased towards negativity) gives older generations absurdly rose-tinted hindsight.

J.T. Holley adds:

I'll second Alex's points. Having eight, six and four year olds I can assure you that I spend more time with my children than my parents ever dreamed of — and I mean quality time.

Now to think that there is the "mean cruel world" out there that wants to tear into, tear apart, corrupt, and diminish the lives of our children is just plain foolish. It's protectionism on a family level.

Kids today have lead-paint-free cribs, childproof lids, moms who don't smoke and drink during pregnancy, bike helmets and bottled water. Are they really worse off than we were? Can you think of one technological advance that doesn't make you and your children better?

And why do people think that there is a greater percentage of pervs, pedophiles, sex offenders or others who prey on children than back in the 50s - 80s? The population has grown, but the distribution of them in society is the same, and our police forces have better technology to combat them.

As far as schooling, the level of public education is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, although there are isolated problems in specific geographic areas. Plus, to pay $35,000 to have my child learn to finger paint seems a little foolish.

Mark Goulston offers:

In my article Potential is a Terrible Thing to Waste I make the connection between coaching and parenting.

Russell Sears writes:

In one sense child rearing is much more demanding today. Freedom, and how to use it responsibly, is almost always demanding. Many parents find it easiest simply to let the media, in all its many forms, be the parent. But this leads to absent parent syndrome.

Peer pressure is on the parent. Most children fantasize no parental authority. Indeed, authors of "Nanny Diaries" said they never saw the father of kids in their care. It’s not just the poor ghetto parent who use TV for babysitting. Parents go to tragic lengths not be parents, just to top their friends as "free spirits". Absentee parent put children at risk for drug dealers and pedophiles.

I limit my children’s access to TV, movies, and Internet. My kids go to public school; nobody would call them sheltered. Why? Because they have spent time with a five-year-old who was given narcotics by his parents, and other children raised in abusive homes.

Sheltered kids only see a romanticized version of life, not the consequences of mistakes. 


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