Would you like a few more credits on your parenting transcript? Would you like a bump in your GPA…”Greater Parenting Approach?” I felt I could use it, too. So, I filled out the application (a puny form of name and address only), attached my essay (not really) and paid my tuition ($30–such a bargain when you consider thousands of dollars spent at a true university) and went to “Parent University” hosted at Nequa Valley High School in Naperville, IL. Being at this glamourous high school in one of the wealthiest suburbs around was like being at a university. I was amazed at how–well–beautiful the structure of this building was and I how very un-High School it felt. These Naperville kids truly are blessed to go to such a fabulous school. But that was only the aesthetics of the place. What I learned there was far better.
Ms. Gloria DeGaetano was the keynote speaker. She is the founder and CEO of the Parent Coaching Inst. (PCI)–developed in 2000 and author of “Parenting Well in a Media Age.” Ms. DeGaetano has been working in this realm since 1985 and has raised two boys. She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Today Show, and NPR’s Fresh Air. She’s well-known for talking with parents about media violence and this screen crazy culture we seem to be living in.
But there is so much more! There is no way I will be able to summarize every super thing I learned in the workshop today in one blog entry. Here’s a sampling for today:
Do you know what the difference is between a media age and a digital age? I didn’t before I plopped down into the cushy seat of the fancy high school auditorium. I do now.
The Media Age: Probably what we remember from the 80’s–or maybe we don’t because it’s what our parents dealt with as we were growing up…”Do I let him play Pac Man at the local pizzaria?” “Can she watch a PG-13 movie when she’s only ten?” “MTV or not?” The media age is about images coming at us in the form of commercials, advertisements, television, and movies. Image media. You have a choice about this one. You either watch, go, do, turn on, or play the video game, or you don’t.
The Digital Age: It’s all about putting those images on a device like a computer, and iPhone. It’s about having those devices buzz and bing and rattle at you constantly–when you are eating, thinking, driving, shoot–going to the bathroom! It’s what happens when your kid stops talking to you about their day and instead says, “If you want to know what I’m doing, mom, follow me on Facebook [or Twitter],” (DeGaetano). Ouch. That hurts.
Why has it come to this?
There’s this idea of popular culture, “everyone’s doing it.” Everyone is on-line, carrying an iPhone, a Blackberry and they can’t stop. It’s addicting. But why are they doing it? Industry says you should. It’s commercialization. There are big companies out there that say you need a iPhone or whatever the latest techy gadget is. They benefit financially from it. They want you to plop down a chunk of change and get that shiny new phone and upgrade your Internet connection. The more often you upgrade your technology–the more money they make. They want you to walk around with your head stuck down into a device and not connect with the actual person–who might even be your neighbor or you kid or your spouse. Your family, your ancestors–and their experiences, the important people in your life are somehow less important because this device–that you just gotta have–has come in between you and them. It’s the popular thing to do.
If that’s the popular culture, what then is the “unpopular culture?” Me, me, me! And maybe you, too. I’m not saying that the shiny piece of plastic with intricate connections to the world is all worthless…nope. It definitely has it’s place. It might make you more connected or productive (or it might just be a distraction–which ironically decreases your productivity). What about the simple act of just talking with a friend over a cup of coffee? The deal with “unpopular culture” is that it gives us a choice as to when and if we use a device.
What can we parents do?
Show our kids we love them by teaching them to be discerning. Your discernment is an act of love. We parents have this really important job of helping our kids learn to make decisions. Our freedom to choose whether we get our 7 year old a phone is something that can never be taken away. The phone can be taken away–lost or stolen or confiscated by parents who’ve had enough, but the freedom to choose whether or not we allow devices in the pudgy hands our our little pumpkins in the first place is something that is not going to go away.
Speaking of going away, most of the screen devices your kid is looking at today, won’t exist in 15 years. Isn’t that humbling? However, I have a feeling you and your kid will still exist in 15 years. Will you be talking with your kid in 15 years, or will you just read about her life on Twitter? Hummm….now that’s something to talk about.