I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Discounting the juvenile delinquents, most average teenagers like me do not have much opportunity to cause our parents any worry. Yes, we may spend too much time watching TV, but really, how much TV can one watch? There were only channel 5 and 8, and these were shared among the four ethnic groups. If you really want to be picky, we could also tune into RTM 1 and 2, for that, one had to also sit through a 20-minutes prayer session in between the show. (I remember watching Bionic Woman and at the most exciting part, the scene was interrupted for prayers.) Some young people may attend tea dances and discos (like my friend S) but I never did. My pocket-money was limited. Far East kids and Centrepoint kids were people I read in the newspapers.
Three decades later, how times have changed. Parenting is now more challenging from what I view around me.
On Saturday, I attended (or rather, organized) a parenting talk on Cyber Wellness. Cyber Wellness is a large subject which comprises of these main topics:
1. Dangers of Internet Pornography
2 The World – Social Media
3. World Danger – Cyber Bullying
4. Addictive Nature of Computer Gaming
5.(New) The New Frontier – Mobile Technologies
The trainer, from Touch Cyber Wellness, spent two hours enlightening the parents on just two topics – Cyber Bullying and Addictive Nature of Computer Gaming.
I know I am more technologically savvy than more of my peers (yes, hard to believe!) and yet, I was amazed by what I learned that afternoon. It’s almost scary.
Most of us parents there were concerned about Computer Gaming and to find out why it is so addictive? (and why every time I ask Aaron to turn off the computer NOW, his ‘5 more minutes’ often turned into 30 minutes.) It’s all because of massively multiplayer online game or MMOG for short. Check out wikipedia to learn more. Not only are young people spending more time playing (not common for up to 40 hours per week), they are also spending real money in the virtual world. Knowing all this, would you still allow your toddlers to play that iPad or iPhone now? (I know of a 6-year-old who owns the latest iPad and iPhone. The parents do not know what is to come.)
The parents left the talk wiser, but still helpless on how to overcome the issues. The trainer stressed communication and bonding. But if your teen is already addicted to cyberspace, chances are, communications and bonding with him may be a little too late. You may need professional help. One resource is Touch Cyber Wellness.
On yesterday Sunday New Paper, there was an article on ex-Singapore Idol contestant Maia Lee removing her tattoos. She is a single mother of a son and daughter, both from different fathers. As the kids grow, I guess she wants to be a better role model for them. After all, it’s okay to embarrass one’s parents with our behaviours (we all have done it one time or another), but quite another to be an embarrassment to our children (although we may still be unknowingly. Teens get embarrassed over the slightest of things.) Being a parent really does make one grow up.
Last night on TV was a Taiwanese Talk Show called 爸妈囧很大. The topic of discussion was 天啊！孩子带情人回家过夜! (omg! My kid just brought his lover home to sleep!) 50 parents sit on one side of the stage and 50 high schoolers and Universities (16-27 years old) on another side. There are 2-3 counsellors on board to give a balanced view, in case things gets feisty. The moderator often asks a controversial questions relating to the topic and based on the input numbers, viewers and participants can see how parents and young differ or share similar views.
The gap was clear last night. Most parents frowned on their children bringing a friend of an opposite sex home to sleep. A daughter complained of inequality – her brother brings his girlfriend home to sleep but she is not allowed to bring hers. (Parents’ view is, other daughter can behave like thrash but not my daughter. Daughter’s behaviour is often a reflection on the family’s values and upbringing.) A mother is proud that her two sons have never done that, and she believes mutual respect is the reason. Most parents also feel that whatever is done outside the home is okay, just not in my home. (Ignorance is bliss.) Many parents also wants their privacy protected (father walks around in boxer shorts) and having a friend over to sleep is an invasion of that. A father, after seeing his son’s girlfriend sleep over so often, suggested that perhaps he should 提亲 (propose marriage) to the other family) and got the son fuming mad. The counsellor reminded the parents that times have changed. It used to be holding hands suggests marriage. Nowadays, sex may not even signal that.
I may soon have to deal with the same problem. I hope my sons are reading this. I am very old-fashioned (What to do, Nanyang educated). I frown on sleep overs and sex before marriage. I take a dim view on girls sleeping over at their boyfriends’ house and wonder about their upbringings too. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. But I also hope mutual respect between parents and child is the reason.
Parenting cannot be more challenging.