Children and Pop Culture (cont.)

TAYLOR:
Using a fast-food example: the "happy meal." What's the message there? If you eat a "happy meal", you'll be happy. It's simply not true.

So, getting back to some more practical suggestions, you want to help kids become aware of the assaults from popular culture. I'm a realist. Your kids are going to watch TV, they're going to see movies and most will play video games. You can't lock them in the basement, so educate them about popular culture. Talk to them about the messages so they can separate the entertainment from the brainwashing. Teach them critical thinking. Get them to ask: What is the message here? What are the values being taught? Is this acceptable? I call this raising healthy skeptics. I don't want parents to raise cynics who don't trust anything in the world and I don't want them to raise naive kids who will believe anything.

MODERATOR:
It can be so important just to get them to understand that they are the target of marketing and to learn to identify when they are being sold.

TAYLOR:
Absolutely. That's where the awareness and critical thinking comes in. Perhaps the most powerful weapon you can give them, in addition to good values, is good decision making, because as kids enter adolescence, they're going to be faced with many choices, most notably related to sex, alcohol and drugs. Parents can't stop their kids from doing these things if the kids want to. So what parents can do is make sure their kids have healthy values and then to teach good decision making which involves not just jumping in; stepping back from the situation, considering the consequences short and long term, and asking themselves which decision is consistent with their values. If parents can teach good values and good decision making the kids will turn out OK in the end.

"The key is to know your values and live your values."

MODERATOR:
Parents can't expect their children to live out values that they have not discussed and modeled. And one chat isn't enough, we have our children with us for years -- it needs to be an ongoing discussion.

TAYLOR:
The power of value-driven parenting is not in the once-a-month discussion at dinner. It is walking the walk on values, meaning living your values. It means talking to your children regularly about values and connecting them to real life. It means surrounding your kids with value-driven people. It means giving them value-driven experiences, whether it's community service work, summer jobs so they learn the value of hard work, or family activities emphasizing the value of family. The power of value-driven parenting is in the daily lessons that parents can teach their kids.

Popular culture has pushed on parents the idea that parents need to be friends to their children and that is simply not their job. If parents are friends with their kids they lose power over them, because friends have equal power with friends, but parents have power over their children. And without that power, kids are going to look elsewhere for guidance, such as popular culture. Kids don't want to be friends with their parents. I also speak with thousands of kids a year when I visit schools around the country and I ask how they feel about being friends with their parents. They look at me like I'm from another planet. Kids need their parents to be parents. These days, kids as young as 6 or 7 years old look, talk, dress and act like little adults, but they're not. They're scared, little human beings who need someone more powerful than them to protect them from a world that has never been more dangerous.

MODERATOR:
There is nothing so horrifying to a teen than a parent who is hip and "one of the kids." Parents should be just as appalled at the child who is being pushed to adulthood ahead of their time.

TAYLOR:
I agree, and kids are growing up way too fast. The movie Mean Girls is a great example, as most teen-oriented movies are these days.

MODERATOR:
Before we wrap things up for today, Dr. Taylor, do you have any final words for us?

TAYLOR:
The key is to know your values and live your values. If people would like to learn more, the title of my book is Your Children Are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids' Values, and How You Can Protect Them . You can visit my web site at www.drjimtaylor.com and I also have a free bimonthly newsletter called Kids and Culture Alert which you can sign up for. Finally, I'm available to speak to schools, parents, educators and students. You can learn more by visiting my web site.

MODERATOR:
Our thanks to Jim Taylor, PhD, for joining us today. You have been a wonderful guest and it is refreshing to have a discussion about values without a political agenda. Thanks for caring so much about our children. Members, for more information, please read Your Children Are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids' Values, and How You Can Protect Them .



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