Saturday, August 11, 2012

The iConnected Parent

Journalist Abigail Moore Sullivan had written an article on the
really risky things people do to get cell phone reception when they're
in dead zones. She noticed also that teens and parents seem a lot
more connected than they did in even the recent past. Middlebury
College professor, Dr. Barbara Hofer noticed more students whipping
out cell phones to call home. She wondered how this would effect
their growth and development. Fortunately for us they met and
embarked on the mutual inquiry that resulted in The iConnected
Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (And Beyond) While
Letting Them Grow Up.
Back when I was a student (Gordon College Class of '83--1983
that is) typically students called home about once a week. Today's
students can chat with Mom several times a day. Why the change?
Sullivan and Hofer say it's largely driven by technology. In my day
we had land lines and high long distance rates. Now there's cell
phones, Skype, Facebook...
However, the authors note other factors. One is described as
peer pressure. Today's parents have been bombarded with messages that
their constant involvement is the only way to protect their kids and
get them on the road to success in life. This major league
involvement can now extend to college and beyond. Not only can
parents have a hard time switching out of this mode, particularly if
they find it fulfilling, but failing to live up to it can bring
ostracism and negative judgements on the part of the "good" parents.
Additionally, people tend to become parents later in life than older
generations and have fewer children on whom to lavish their love and
Hofer and Sullivan say the results of this change in
communication patterns are decidedly mixed. On the positive side,
many families are closer, to the enjoyment of both students and
parents. However, there are a number of substantial dangers. The
developmental tasks of the college years include becoming more
disciplined in study skills, more able to make decisions autonomously,
and more skilled in negotiating interpersonal relationships. This
important progress may not happen for kids if Mom and Dad write or
edit papers, choose classes, and intervene with roommates.
Too tightly connected kids may also not get as much out of
college as previous generations did. When Mom is best friend there is
not as much motivation to bond with those more problematic peers.
Parent chosen majors and classes often don't inspire the passion and
dedication of self chosen ones. Long distance nagging doesn't give a
son or daughter the motivation or chance to take ownership of his/her
college experience.
Frankly I'd recommend this book to anyone who has a child in or
headed toward college. I know I learned a lot from it.
On a personal note, I had the most fun morning volunteering at Orono
Public Library. A gentle rain (which also benefitted the garden)
brought in a lovely congregation of readers. I also finally located
an electric ice cream maker I could afford at the Orono Thrift Shop. :)
A great big shout out goes put to my three wonderful children who
continue to survive my parenting.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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