Youth Movement: Kids are maturing much faster, but who exactly is to blame?

01/08/14 by Rennie Detore

The Miley Cyrus era has started off with the proverbial bang.
Her recent performance at the MTV Video Music Awards conjured up images of her female performer precursors such as Brittney Spears and, before that, Madonna.
This is the new Miley Cyrus, but her act still feels so very tired. She's simply this generation's lightning rod and polarizing figure for a particular demographic.
Cyrus didn't necessary elicit cheers or jeers when she was done, but rather a lengthy line of dropped jaws followed her as she bounced, pounced and gyrated on stage. Sweet, innocent and loveable "Hanna Montana" morphed into a maniacal minx that echoed a sense of debauchery that has come to be the norm on that particular MTV production.
The question at hand isn't so much whether you agree or disagree with Miley's latest career move. She's in the entertainment business and doesn't seem to be taking much of what she does seriously.

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Nor should she.
The abounding inquiry is much more pertinent: How seriously do your kids take what she does, and more importantly, should they be exposed to this?
Cyrus hardly apologized for her latest transformation from a child superstar to a full blown adult act underscored with incredibly mature overtones. All she did was react by releasing the "Wrecking Ball" video where she's opted out of wearing anything other than the aforementioned "wrecking ball" from the title track. Realistically, why should she be saying sorry? She's an entertainer, and she's doing what a long line of female "musicians" before her did: catch headlines with a performance deemed to risque for regular television.
Her goal is to sell albums and tickets, not to stand in as a role model for kids. That isn't her job, so she doesn't deserve blame in that particular arena. Her judgment is something completely different, and can be questioned wholeheartedly as far as how she's advancing her career.
The residual and ripple effects of her performance, however, is where the on stage performing turns to apathy in the eyes of the parents, who are the ones who should be held accountable for what their impressionable kids are watching.
Christy Whitman is a New York Times best selling author and creator of the Enlightened Kids Program, which helps kids hone decision making skills at young age and cultivate limitations and empowering parents in that same vein.
Whitman believes strongly that parents still hold the remote control of sorts as far as what their kid are exposed to daily.
"We're still, as parents, in control of what kids attention is on, but more importantly how much time they spend on the internet, the sites they see and what TV or movies they watch. It's our job to scale it back and limit what they're watching or only age appropriate things," Whitman urges.
"Let them have that creativity space and play; they need choices, but they also need parameters."
Those parameters come directly from parents and should be firm, distinct and direct. That includes no bartering from mom and dad (i.e. if you do this, you can watch that) or anything that can be perceived as a "mixed signal" as far as discipline goes.
In the long run, kids will adhere to the rules, as long as they exist and are black and white
"Kids feel safe with boundaries, but they're always trying to test boundaries if parents are 'wishy, washy," Whitman concludes.
Those boundaries include television and what is deemed acceptable, or not, as far as Miley masquerading on stage or anything else that is suitable for adults but sought out by children.
Pointing the finger at mom and dad is easy; parents make great scapegoats, but their "reach" only goes so far in terms of monitoring what kids watch. The inception of technology adds an entirely new dimension to the discussion.
The last time anyone checked, mom and dad aren't in school with kids or riding the bus with them, so monitoring devices like phones and tablets all day, every day hardly is practical, if not impossible.
In this instance, Whitman chooses to take a longer look at our youth, its culture and how technology plays a role.
"Kids are wired differently today," Whitman states. "The first time my son picked up my iPhone; he knew what to do. From a global perspective, we are moving faster and having information (at our fingertips) more than our parents did before."
That could explain exactly why those same parents might not take the idea of having a smart phone, computer, internet access or a tablet as serious as they should. And if they paid more attention to these gadgets, would that bridge the gap between completely understanding how to monitor what children are watching outside of the house?
In some ways, it's out of the parents' hands.
"You can set rules at your house but you can't help if friends have it and if they see stuff they're not supposed to see," Whitman states.
According to Whitman, it's how mom and dad handle the fallout that ultimately determines how their kids react moving forward
"As parents, we need to be conscious of the time we live in and what they see," Whitman said. "Your kids may say 'I saw her on the VMAs, etc., and your response should be 'how did that make you feel?' It can't com from an angry place as a parent but rather more inquisitive."
Your tone and how you treat the kids in the midst of this dialogue should come across more as understanding, compassionate or concerned, instead of making children feel as though they did something wrong. At the end of the day, kids are always going to be curious, speculative or gravitate toward what they don't know or haven't seen before. If the communication is cantankerous, your child will assume you're unapproachable and might not come to you in the future when any other dilemma arises.
"Open communication is key; if you try to control them and say 'you can't see that, look away,' that isn't the day and age we are in, "Whitman says. "The approach we take is key."
Part of that approach is assuming that television, movies and entertainment will continue to evolve, and that aspect of kids longing to mature faster or grow up too quickly is out of your hands.
Performers like Cyrus aren't going away, nor are they going to quiet down any time soon. The trick to silencing her and others cut from that same mold is for parents and kids to work collectively, collaboratively, make smart decisions, instill boundaries and, of course, talk.
And, when it doubt, there's always the "power" button on the television when appropriate.

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