Parenting, and the challenges of the 21st Century - a personal view by Carol Maydan

Being a parent in the 21st century is one of the most challenging tasks one can take on. Long gone, it seems, are the days of innocent childhoods. There is little room for innocence when surrounded by war, violence, and sexuality everywhere your child looks. While there is little that parents can do to eliminate the external factors, there are ways to help control them. If you think drugs and alcohol are the main threats to your child, however, think again!

The Wonders & Dangers Of The Internet

Internet pictureThe internet can be a wonderful educational tool for your children. It provides them with access to information and knowledge at the touch of a button. Children can access and complete their homework directly on the computer, they can research any school project without long hours at the library, and they can listen to all of their favorite music while doing so. They can keep in touch with friends and family all over the world, sharing emails, photos, and even videos. They can learn new languages with the help of online programs. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Unfortunately, as beneficial as the internet may be for children today, it is also one of the most dangerous tools they can get their hands on. With just a few clicks of a mouse, your child can go from learning about the mating habits of the spider monkey to seeing explicit videos on the mating habits of humans. The amount of pornography on the internet is just as abundant as the amount of educational material, if not more so it may seem. Without the proper safeguards in place, you would be surprised just how easy it can to to access an adult oriented website just by checking a box that says you're 18. Luckily for parents who may not have the time to consistently monitor their child's internet time, there are programs such as Net Nanny that restrict the material each computer used is allowed to access. These programs essentially block websites that may contain offensive or inappropriate information. While constant monitoring may not seem feasible, that also doesn't mean you shouldn't take time out on a regular basis to sit with your child and see just what they spend their internet time looking at.

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The other danger of internet usage is the child's access to social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook, as well as multiple chat room options. While these places and tools are a great way for your child to communicate with friends and family, it is also a primary avenue by which sexual predators make contact with underage children. Make sure your child knows that the 15 year old girl in they are taking to may very well be a 56 year old male. Educate them on the signs to look for when a virtual pen pal begins to cross the line.

This Isn't Your Childhood Gaming System

image from I was growing up we had Atari. We had Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, and Pac Man. Kids today have a variety of gaming systems to choose from and the Mario Brothers are still a hit. Unfortunately, so are games like Grand Theft Auto, a game that allows the player to pick up a prostitute, carjack an old lady, and kill their enemies in cold blood. This is a far cry from fighting spiked turtles in an effort tot make it ti the tower and save the princess. While video games can be a great source of entertainment for your kids, take the time to make sure the games they are playing are appropriate for their age group. Thanks to the Family Media Group and its sister company PSVratings, all video games sold today are required to not only be marked with the suggested age ranges for the game, they also include a list of the types of material the game may contain that limit it to play be older children only. For instance, the game may be rated for children 13 and up and list on the package that it received this rating because of language used in the game, and war type violence.

What parents today need to remember is that the gaming console is not a babysitter. Encourage your children to go outside and play on a regular basis. WIth child obesity at an all time high in the United States, it wouldn't hurt them to get up off the couch and burn off some calories playing basketball in the driveway. Thanks to new Wii console from Nintendo, video gaming is not only encouraging people to stand up and play, it is also bringing back the joy of family game night. Have a little healthy family competition. It not only exposes your children to family friendly games, it also gives you something to do as a family, potentially opening lines of communication and making you closer to your children.

The Dangers Of Childhood Obesity

Todays children are spending less time outdoors and more time planted in front of a television watching TV or playing video games or staring at a computer monitor four hours on end. Combine this with the fact that we have become a nation of convenience, relying heavily on fast food drive-throughs and easy fix prepared dinners to provide sustenance. The home cooked meal can be a rare occasion and our child's diet most likely consists of a vast amount of junk food and poorly balanced, high fat, high calorie meals. If you don't have the time to cook a fresh meal every day, teach you children how to eat balanced meals, grabbing a piece of fresh fruit instead of a candy bar, drinking a glass of water instead of a sugary soda loaded with caffeine. Encourage them to stay active and balance their television and computer time with outdoor activities. Get them involved in activities that will help reduce the rise of childhood obesity caused by poor diets and sedentary lifestyles.

All in all, the 21st century is the most difficult time, by far, to be a parent. By spending more time with your child, however, you can not only have a better idea of what they are being exposed to and potentially be able to minimize the threat, you can also make sure that you have time to develop and nurture the same bonds that you had with your parents and they had with theirs.

Copyright of Carol Maydan 2008