Thursday, July 24, 2008
Teens, peer pressure and stepping up
Presidential campaigns race forward, Matthew McConaughey is one hot dad, Hurricane Dolly threatens flooding, and local 14-year-old boys and girls share nude pictures of themselves via cell phone. I bet you didn’t see that one coming...anymore than I did…
A concerned parent viewed her son’s text messages and photos recently—stunned by the content. We talked yesterday afternoon—she wants other parents to know what’s happening. Afterward, my head reeling, relieved that my son is a year or so behind in the puberty race, I tried to view the world from these young teens’ points of view.
I’m part of a fairly secretive generation—we spent a lot of time wondering who was sleeping with whom. But truthfully? More happened during locker room bragging than in reality. Teen pregnancy rates were low, STDs weren’t deadly, we didn’t wear colored arm bands proclaiming our sexual prowess…mainly, because no one had any.
We did have hormonal urges though, and, yes, they drove us crazy. However, we were on the tail end of generations who respected privacy and avoided sexual discussions. We lacked electronic venues for touting sexuality; TV shows rarely displayed teens sleeping around. When they did—moral consequences occurred, teaching hard, life-altering lessons. Basically, my teenhood was very different from my children's--all generations are not created equal.
Kids should be proud of who they are, what they look like...but somehow, I can’t relate nude phone pictures to self-pride. I know the viewers don’t. Physical connections are a contest these days—boys and girls "collect" them, comparing notes. Of course people are terribly hurt in the process--sadly, many teens don't care.
I was lucky—my mom was open-minded and honest, she explained a lot, including the value of respect. Respect for yourself, your body, your choices. That lesson is more important today—the media and pervasive electronics diminish personal respect daily.
Electronics are here to stay, in-your-face sexuality is probably here to stay, so parents are responsible for monitoring their kids’ activities, electronic games, TV shows. Know your kids’ friends, meet their families, find out their rules. Many parents are desperate for allies, welcoming your support.
Spend time with your children, listen to their words, especially unspoken ones… Teens won’t ask or tell you everything, that’s part of learning independence.
Accept being disliked sometimes—you’re the parent, not the best friend. Teens are bombarded by peer pressure...it’s your job to enforce limits. Realistically, your teen often can’t.
My middle son wants photo sharing added to our cellular plan—yesterday's enlightenment made that decision easy… A. won't agree, but after explaining my reasons, life will go on. Because my kids share a phone, no one has privacy regarding texts either—I’m soooo OK with that.
I have great kids; however, peer pressure is slowly outranking me. I don’t expect to beat it, but I can certainly pace it, by facing reality and stepping up. I might need a helluva lot more coffee though!