/ September 2015 - Vol. 81
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
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 an 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
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.