Parenting the modern child
Many parents can attest to the fact that parenting the 21st century child is especially challenging because unfortunately parents do not have guidelines from their own past on how to deal with these challenges. This is mainly because the modern child is living in a world that’s awash with technology that most of the older generation can barely keep up with.
Parents have to contend with this omnipresent technology, be it mobile phones, internet and various other forms of communication that grant your child virtually 24/7 contact with their peers and or other undesirable elements. Add onto this mix the fact that the cost of living is incredibly high and as a result most parents have to work, doing all they can to preserve their jobs and you get a recipe for parenting disaster.
While technology has its advantages, numerous reports have shown that un-chaperoned, unrestricted access to the cyber space by minors is proving to be a dangerous engagement. Experts have often encouraged parents to offer ‘proper’ guidance so that their children would learn that leaving one’s information lying around in some online site is just as unsafe as physically publishing the same information in a shopping mall’s notice board where anyone and everyone has access to it.
Though still relatively new, cyberspace violence against children has been found to manifest itself in four main ways:
· Child pornography which is defined as "any representation, by whatever means, of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes". The perpetrators produce these materials and then distribute these for mass consumption and current statistics reveal that this is a 2-3 billion dollar industry.
· Online solicitation or ‘grooming’. This involves securing a child’s trust in-order to draw them into a situation where they may be harmed and or exploited e.g. to pose as models in pornographic movies, abductions, child trafficking etc.
· Exposure to materials that can cause psychological harm, lead to physical harm, or facilitate other detriment to a child e.g. information with regard to terrorism, unhealthy dieting, eating disorders, violent gaming, harmful ‘how to’ manuals (like how to die, how to kill), cyber crimes etc.
· Cyber bullying which involves, harassment, intimidation, stalking and other activities that can make a child afraid to carry on with their day to day routines.
However, all is not lost because every parenting generation has had to contend with its own unique challenges and each has survived. Since time immemorial, man keeps on reinventing himself and the present day parent must do the same if they hope to be effective in reaching their children.
Below are practical tips that parents can use:
· Remain in-charge: Democracy is all well and good but children need to know that they are accountable to their parents who in turn present themselves as able and confident leaders.
· Check your expectations: the best way to parent this modern child, who is so exposed and aware, is to remain real with them. Accept that no-one is perfect; stop expecting to be the perfect parent and stop expecting perfection from your child.
· Communicate: The modern child is increasingly analytical in his interactions and as a result will not respond to the dictatorial dos and don’ts of days gone by; talking and reaching a consensus will be more effective.
There is also need for a healthy dose of laughter, quality time and love; in essence creating an environment that makes the child feel included and cared for. Most children go astray because they are looking for love, attention, acceptance and security and when they are able to have these needs adequately met at home, they will not stray. It does not matter how much the times change, there are basic needs that do not change and it is these needs that parents should ensure they are meeting.
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