A teenage boy goes shopping on the Internet, sees something he likes, immediately reaches his mother via cell phone, and in a few short keystrokes, types in her credit card number and gets a shiny new lacrosse stick. Thanks to technological advances including computers, the Internet, cell phones, and satellites, today’s children are faced with a world markedly more complex—and often more distracting—than that of any other preceding generation.
In his provocative new book Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in an Age of Instant Everything (AMACOM, 2008), clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Osit examines why and how this phenomenon shapes children’s values, attitudes, and behavior and provides strategies for coping with the particular challenges of growing up in the new millennium.
The following is adapted from Generation Text.
Ten Rules for Raising Well-Adjusted Generation Texters
- Emphasize the Importance of Family. While most adolescents tend to stray from their families at some point, that phase is usually temporary. No matter how far removed or alienated your kids may seem to be, if they have a strong sense of family—a thoroughly ingrained connection and shared love—they will inevitably return.
- Demonstrate Unconditional Love and Balance. Your children need to feel loved, respected, and accepted regardless of their behavior or expression of identity. (This doesn’t mean giving them permission to act or dress as they please.) A child who can be himself is more likely to come to you with questions and problems. You should also strive to seek a healthy balance between being a child-centered family and a parent-focused family.
- Consciously Define Fundamental Values. Never assume that your kids are “getting it” when it comes to the core values you want them to learn. Actively educate them by pointing out and explaining interactions and behaviors, using teachable moments with yourself, your child, and others as examples. Never letting go of your basic values enables your kids to take full advantage of the power of technology and all that today’s culture offers, without losing sight of the bigger picture.
- Constantly Reevaluate Normalcy. A vital part of parenting is not giving in to the same pressures your kids face, and being careful about what you allow to become “normal” in your family. Every once in a while, find a way to step back and gain the perspective you need to stay calm and resist getting swept up in doing something simply because most people are doing it.
- Practice Active Parenting. It is very easy to get wrapped up in juggling time and money. As a result, many loving parents become passive in their parenting. Kids need active parents to help them navigate their access to the world and the excess of information and “things.” Your strong presence attests to your love and helps you thwart the power of negative techno-social influence on your kids.
- Model Behavior Consistent with Moral Character. “Do as I do” is a credo that will have a great deal of power and influence in developing well-adjusted kids with high moral character. Take care to monitor your behavior and how you portray yourself to others, from your mannerisms to your limitations. Kids will surprise. Even when you think they are not paying attention, they really are picking up on your most subtle traits.
- Keep Pace with the Technology and Youth Culture. To maintain your edge over machines, try to anticipate general trends and stay alert to crazes. Being complacent about the impact technology and culture have on your kids is risky and dangerous. After all, your kids readily adapt to “whatever they think of next.” If you are lagging behind in the discussion, you are sure to fall behind in your parenting as well.
- Establish and Maintain Appropriate Limits. Without limits and boundaries, the world becomes a scary and unsafe place for Generation Text kids. Start early. Habituation and normalcy will work for your kids in a positive way if they get used to having parameters imposed on them. By establishing and maintaining limits, your kids will be less likely to ask for things excessively and more likely to have self-discipline, positive self-esteem, a good work ethic, and respect for authority and themselves.
- Work Toward a Healthy Balance. To avert raising a self-entitled, high-risk product of the access and excess culture, you must create a healthy balance in your child’s life. This means constantly evaluating what and how much you are giving your child, and distinguishing between wants and needs. It requires an examination of social expectations and your child’s readiness to meet them. Strike a balance between what you permit your children to do, and what things and privileges you deny them. Maintaining a healthy balance will help your child see the world from a healthy perspective.
- Use the Generation Text Culture to Benefit Your Child. Take advantage of all technology has to offer in terms of personal growth. Providing your kids with supervised access to vast amounts of important information will expand their minds and enrich their future. Being careful not to promote wasteful consumerism, you need to keep your child equipped with enough technology to keep him or her socially mainstreamed and educationally advantaged. By staying aware and involved, you can even transform potentially negative exposure to the Internet or peer influence into a positive learning experience for your child.
Read more about Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in an Age of Instant Everything, by Dr. Michael Osit (AMACOM, 2008).