Fifteen years into the 21st century, the world does seem a smaller place. As humans we have traveled and relocated and merged and intermarried and have multi-ethnic children and customs. Between my husband and myself we share three countries, two ethnic backgrounds, three languages and two religions. Our children have multiple citizenships and family members across the globe. It would seem we have come a long way as a species. And yet so much has gone backward as well.
It is ironic that this advanced world of electronics that keeps us continually connected is also an age of great divides. The racial tensions in the US in the past year, the anger over more gay rights and rigid religious views continue to polarize this nation. In many ways we bemoan the fact that our children do not have much of a childhood when faced with such attitudes. I worried about the world and how it would affect my children’s worldview. They have grown up in a much more violent time. I recall the horrific tragedy at Columbine High School and the aftermath. Now in addition to fire drills and earthquake drills, my children had active shooter lock down drills at their schools. “Good Lord” I thought “what a world”. How do you raise fearless children in such a place?
And yet, this was their childhood. They did not know any other. And there was always the question of nature versus nurture. Would my children be products of their environment or of what we passed on to them?
There seems to be so much more to worry about then when I was growing up. I recall as a young child being out of the house for hours, riding my bike around the neighborhood or hanging out with friends. My mom could call out that it was time to come home and it seemed no matter where I was, I could hear that call. Now we send texts. Now there is not so much worry about the stranger walking down the street but the stranger on social media. Children have to become savvy in so many different ways. Parents urge caution but it’s the way of the world for a teen to have 500 “friends” on Facebook or Instagram and not have a care about the photos or personal information they are posting. They seem to have a false sense of security that the people in their networks mean them no harm. Sadly the news and multiple TV reports tell another story. And yet that again begs the question. How do you raise children to be cautious and yet fearless? Do you scare them senseless in an effort to keep them safe?
Electronics, the Internet and social media can open up the world to a person and blur the geographical boundaries. But it is a Pandora’s Box. The irony is that I too enjoy having this access. I can catch glimpses into my children’s lives or my friends and family so far from us. I can send a text or video chat and have an instant conversation with a loved one across the country. What message do my children get when they see me involved on my phone or the Internet? It’s that old contradictory adage; do as I say, not as I do.
In reality so much is out of our hands as parents. We can teach them as best we can but in the end it is their choices and decisions that will determine their path. I pray I have done my job. I pray they have heeded my advice. Out in the world they are on their own. I have to trust that they’ll be fine. But I’ll send them a text just to make sure.