Many parents and grandparents of teens fear the problems of peer pressure when their child hits adolescence. Parents worry, “How can I keep my kids from drinking, getting involved in drugs, or even ending up in jail?”
There is a way to keep your kids on track—and you can help them stay away from all the bad stuff.
When it comes to keeping your kids away from drinking, specifically, a recent report from the University of Albany say so—and so do I. The authors show that when parents mediate their children’s screen views, kids listen.
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When you as a mom or dad discuss what they see on their screens with regard to drinking, you can actually influence whether or not they drink.
As simple as this sounds, most parents doubt that they really can persuade their kids to avoid drinking, but those doubts are 100 percent false.
Down deep, many parents believe that the media determine their child’s behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. This is absolutely not true. Sure, media messages influence our kids, but not nearly as powerfully as we can.
So roll up your sleeves. Here’s what you can do to keep your precious kids from letting media messages, such as drinking, take them down a dark path.
First, take charge over the amount of recreational screen time your kids have. Yes, they will see things you don’t like, but at least limit it as much as you can.
Set a limit, such as 30 minutes per day, on a very specific type of screen use. Will your child scream and throw a temper tantrum? Probably, but he’ll stop eventually.
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Second, teach your kids critical thinking skills. Look at their screens with them and ask what they think about what they see. Do they like seeing someone getting drunk, smoking pot, having sex? Then listen.
Direct their answers by asking more questions like, “Why do you think that/feel that?” Don’t just tell them what to think. Teach them how to evaluate behaviors they see—and then ask why they believe what they do. You may find yourself at a dead end when a child says, “I don’t know,” but that’s OK. You are teaching your kids how to think.
Third, tell them what marketers are up to. One of the easiest ways to get kids to avoid falling for manipulation by marketers is to them why they are being sold alcohol, sex, and other things.
Advertisers don’t care one wit about your kids. So directly teach your kids why they are seeing alcohol or sex on their screens. Identify the enemy and your kids will get it. They don’t like the idea of being manipulated, either.
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And don’t be hypocritical. If you don’t want your kids to do bad stuff, then you can’t. If you laugh at drunk people on screens or routinely drink too much yourself, save your breath.
Kids are smart. They don’t want to be sold a bill of goods. Plus, if they see you acting like a teenager, they’ll act like teenagers. That’s the tough part about parenting. Words matter far less than actions. If you want your kids to avoid peer pressure or media messages like drinking, you have to go first.
The researchers from University of Albany are right on track. They correctly advise parents to fight for their kids.
Will you invest enough time and energy to do what works?
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We’re living in a culture that doesn’t like your kids or mine. Social media is sucking the life out of them, violence on screens desensitizes them, and they are sold everything from sex to alcohol to weed. Those are bad—but the real tragedy comes when smart, good parents fail to intervene because they think they can’t win the battle.
Never believe that lie. That’s being duped by peer pressure.
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Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for over 30 years. She is the author of many books, including Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture, and is the creator of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project. She has been called “America’s Mother” by Dave Ramsey, has given TED talks on parenting issues, and has appeared on many major media outlets. A version of this post appeared on her website and is used by permission.