2011 - Vol. 53
by Michael Shaughnessy
Sometimes the abandonment of authority happens subtly. Dad hardly noticed
that he shared his authority with the script writers of CBS television
by allowing his children to watch Father Knows Best.
Soon they were watching All in the Family with its message that
Dad, like Archie Bunker, clearly did not know best. Dad heard something
idiotic and might have voiced his disagreement with the script, but the
kids heard, "Parents aren't with it. Why even listen to them?" Television
brought another authority into the house, shaping the children's world
view, and dad and mom allowed it.
Today's family might be captured in this scene from a recent episode
of Modern Family. Mom is serving dinner to the family at table where
each person is on a device. She says, "O.K. That's it! Everybody, gadgets
down, now! Families are supposed to talk." The daughter says, "Mom's insane,"
and they all return to their screens. Cue the canned laughter. The lesson
is clear – parents should not control the use of gadgets.
A modern family of four may sit together in the living room, yet be
in four different realities. Dad is watching sports on his computer, mom
is checking her flickr photos on her iPad. Their daughter is sending her
197th text of the day on her phone and their son is playing Super Mario
on his Xbox with a boy living in Hong Kong.
An iPad, smart-phone, television, mp3 player, Gameboy, or Kindle can
hold the modern family captive in an odd sort of unity as each periodically
interrupts the others with the latest, funniest, most awesome, or coolest
picture, video, joke or news, before they all go back to what they were
sucking giga bytes of digital data into their cozy family cocoon.
Sharing Your Shaping
Children's lives are now regularly being shaped, not by the parents,
but by whoever is at the other end of their children's gadgets. In the
modern world you probably can't get rid of all the gadgets, but it is still
the parents' responsibility to "authorize" their use, knowing that they
are giving away authority every time they buy a new gadget.
Parents should know the power they are giving into the hands of others
before they give it. It is hard to take back.
Shaughnessy is an elder in The
Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos
in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches
to high school, university and post university aged people.]