The headline on the Sunday, Aug. 6 Washington Post style section was so visually “loud” that no other words were immediately visible to my eyes. It screamed, “Chill Out, Mom,” followed by “Parents Fret About Children’s Entertainment. Maybe That’s Part of the Problem.”
As I travel the country speaking to civic, religious and education organizations about how to protect today’s youth in a culture gone crazy, it’s obvious that the problem isn’t parental worry -- it’s parental ignorance and inaction.
Of course, headlines are supposed to grab your attention (and the writer of this one deserves a Pulitzer). But the impression is so powerful that the reader actually may believe the lie that parental concerns or involvement harm our children.
Here’s the reality: Moms and dads, you have good reason to fret. And as I show in my book, Home Invasion, hands-on parenting in your children’s lives is more important today than ever.
To be fair to Post journalist Ann Hornaday, her article contained excellent recommendations. She pointed out, for instance, that media literacy programs are important components of keeping our kids safe in our technological world of wonders. As an advisory board member for Web Wise Kids, a non-profit organization that has worked with schools, law enforcement and civic groups, and trained hundreds of thousands of students across the nation how to stay safe from online predators, I know that such programs have saved lives.
According to Robert Rabon (whose organization, National Center for Youth Issues, has taught counselors and administrators from some 30,000 schools how to identify dangers and build character in students): “School counselors and teachers can be a primary entry point for addressing the social and emotional issues of our kids. Most public schools have a counselor, but the vast majority have very few tools to do their jobs. One of our goals is to get resources and training into their hands.”
There must be a joint effort by the educational community, religious leaders and, yes, parents, if we’re going to keep our youth safe -- not just from predators, but from the pornography-immersed marketing efforts that have our kids in the cross-hairs.
Today’s kids are the most marketed-to generation of children in history. They spend an estimated $150 billion a year of their own money. Combine this with the often-seen modern parental desire to be their kids’ “friend” (which results in indulging little Johnny’s every whim and a failure to set rules and standards), and you can see why marketers compete like never before for the attention of these sophomoric spenders.