The Internet Parent
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kids: 10 is the new 15 - and a much easier target

Predators don't just exist on the Internet...

I read an article by Martha Irvine on MSNBC, entitled 10 the new 15 as Kids Grow Up Faster. It's a great discussion, illustrating how kids are having less and less "protected time" to be kids, and the way that erosion is affecting them and their relationship with their parents.

What's to blame? Well, a whole host of factors, but I think I would sum it up as an invasion of adult strangers into our kids lives. It's not that popular culture is intrinsically bad. But when we let our kids participate without moderation in popular culture, it seems that we feed an inevitable shift to the gutter. Why? Because "pop culture" is distorted by adults who are trying to attract kids.

Think about it. Young people create the most prominent themes in emerging culture. That part is GREAT.

But then, adults who "have an agenda" begin to ride, manipulate, and productize those themes to a) engage and establish relationships with potential customers, and b) make a lot of money.

Without parental protection and oversight, kids will be seduced by the merchandising of their emerging identities. And it's adults that are doing the seducing, using the tools that are most seductive -- sex, music, celebrity, addictions of every sort, and the Internet.

Why do kids fall for it? Because the merchandisers are really good at their game. And because our kids That's why they have parents.

It's our job to "interfere" with that seduction, and to protect them.

Think about it this way: When has the unrestricted interaction of kids with adult strangers ever been a good thing? (See my MySpace posts here and here for more on that topic...) Yet, that's what's happening when kids "buy in" to pop culture. They're absorbing a message that's coming from an adult somewhere, in some faceless company, who is trying capture your child's attention.

Let's just say that predators aren't only on the Internet.

So, don't let it happen. I'm a very strong advocate of parental supervision (especially regarding the Internet) and limiting kids from an unrestricted embrace of pop culture, because those who are animating it and amplifying it do NOT have our kids' best interest in mind.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a prude. I love new music. I love the Internet. I love beauty and creativity in all its forms. And the creativity of youth expresses itself miraculously every day in all these ways.

But we as parents have to remain vigilant and RESPONSIBLE, using all the tools at our disposal to protect our kids, even as those who stand to enrich themselves use every tool at their disposal to exploit them.

Waging your own battle against the invasion of tawdry pop culture? Shocked at the way elementary school "prostit-tots" dress? Dismayed that "bitches and ho's" is the new slang for your daughter and her friends?

Got answers or suggestions? Share your comments.


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