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July 5, 2013

Parents, don’t give in to guilt

NORMAN —

 

I often hear real-life parenting stories that evoke two equally strong feelings: on the one hand, sorrow; on the other, gratefulness. I am saddened to hear these stories, always told to me by loving parents who have conscientiously tried to always do the right thing, but they also cause me to be glad beyond measure that I am not raising children today. I got out of the game just in time, it seems.

Willie and I did not have to deal with hundreds of cable channels, video games, cell phones, or the Internet with its various temptations, including social media, pornography that a 5-year-old can access (Click Here if You’re 18 or Older!), chatrooms, online gaming, and shopping carts.

When my kids were growing up, we had a television (sometimes), period. In 1980, I wrote a column in which I speculated that video games were addictive (which we now know is true), and the president of Nintendo USA sent me a state-of-the-art video-game system to share with my poor, tech-deprived children so I could see for myself how wrong-headed I was. It sat, unopened, in my attic until several years ago when I gave it away. In short, Willie and I had it easy. The worst thing either of our kids did was sneak out at night after we were asleep. That would be the son, of course.

One such heartbreaking story was told to me recently. It’s been told to me hundreds of times, actually, and every time my heart is broken. It begins with good, decent, responsible parents discovering that their young adolescent boy has accessed pornography of the worst sort on the Internet.

They confront him. His father talks to him about how pornography disrespects women. The parents make sure he can no longer access the Internet at home without supervision. The boy figures out how to get around the blocks, how to disarm the tracking software. The parents find him sitting at the computer, mesmerized, at three o’clock in the morning.

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