04 August 2006

Paranoid Parenting?

Today on Opinion Journal from Kay Hymowitz:
"Some years ago my older daughter, then a senior in college, listened to me fret about rumors of drinking at the parties her ninth-grade sister was begging to go to. "They're so young to deal with this sort of thing," I worried. "Mom," she began in a knowing tone, "What do you think was going on when I went to parties in the ninth grade?"
I lingered for a moment over the disconnect between this young woman standing before me, a premed student, an Organization Kid who would sooner live on bread and water than turn in a late paper, and the image of her 14-year-old self chugging a Budweiser. Then, I struggled with two contradictory responses. First, discomfiture; I had been naïve, a mental status that we been-there-done-that boomer parents find pretty embarrassing. How could I have been so out of it? And second: relief. Thank God I didn't know. If I had, I would have had to transform my parenting approach from trust-but-verify (check-in phone calls to friends' parents, "so how did the movie end again?" sort of questions, etc.) to all-out war.

This incident and my response came to mind when I read recently about the burgeoning market in parental surveillance devices
Still, there's a lot more behind Big Mother and Father spyware than protecting children from the dangers of an anonymous and treacherous 21st-century world. The truth is that today's parents worry about their kids' most mundane activities in a way that would baffle the legendarily meddling mothers and fathers of the 1950s. They are practitioners of what British sociologist Frank Furedi calls "paranoid parenting."
This, after all, is the generation of parents that has made bike helmets and car seats a matter of state interest and has banned such perilous pastimes as tag and dodgeball from school playgrounds..."


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