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Who will your child obey in the social network?

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Recent headlines about two Wisconsin 12-year-olds depict what happens when children choose to obey the wrong voice, which in this case is a meme called Slenderman – a fictional internet character who stalks and leads children to do creepy and horror-filled acts. According to the news reports, these two 12-year-olds, who are being charged as adults for the attempted murder of another 12-year-old by stabbing her 19 times, were carrying out the orders of this meme whom they wanted to please.

These girls had indeed made serious choices to obey commands from an authority figure of their choosing which is a cautionary story for the modern parent. Children must learn to choose who to obey and understand why. So does your child understand they have personal power, which is free will and intelligence, which they must learn to not surrender in the network and in the flesh?

Marshall Hopper is the Chief Probation Officer for the Placer County Probation Department, and he routinely witnesses the fall out of obedience misplaced. “The biggest problem for parents and kids today is the smart phone,” he said. “Parents do not understand what this device can do and they are issued at very young ages, and then kids get hooked.”

Hopper observes that the device interferes with the open communication necessary between the parents and kids and “when things go wrong, there is no capacity to talk about it.” He explains that the philosophy of the probation department is to provide some intervention while the child still has some control over his fate. “They can choose to cooperate and learn, or buck the system,” he said. (To further this objective of helping children understand the how choosing obedience can keep them free, Placer County set up a Crisis Resolution Center to help strengthen the parent-child communication.)

Obedience is an emotionally-charged concept that connotes powerlessness, or being under the authority of another force than yourself. And yet the truth is that the world is characterized by forces greater than ourselves, and we are making many choices to submit or not to powers and principalities – in the flesh and in the social network.

From a cyber parenting perspective, the most important thing we can do for our children is to encourage self-governance at an early age – by reinforcing their power to choose to obey the boundaries that will keep them free from addiction, exploitation and bullying.

For more about communicating your child’s personal power to obey, go to: Reviving Parenthood.

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