My latest weekly Forbes column asks, “Why Do We Always Sell the Next Generation Short?” and it explores the dynamics that lead many parents and policymakers to perpetually write off younger generations. As the late journalism professor Margaret A. Blanchard once observed: “[P]arents and grandparents who lead the efforts to cleanse today’s society seem to forget that they survived alleged attacks on their morals by different media when they were children. Each generation’s adults either lose faith in the ability of their young people to do the same or they become convinced that the dangers facing the new generation are much more substantial than the ones they faced as children.”
What explains this phenomenon? In my essay, I argue that it comes down to a combination of “juvenoia” and hyper-nostalgia. University of New Hampshire sociologist David Finkelhor defines juvenoia as “exaggerated anxiety about the influence of social change on children and youth.” Once you combine such panicky juvenoia about new media and youth culture with a nostalgic view of the past that says the “good ‘ol days” are behind us, you get the common generational claim that the current good-for-nothing generation and their new-fangled gadgets and culture are steering us straight into the moral abyss.
Instead of panic and hyper-pessimism, I believe that the more sensible approach approach is patient parental engagement and mentoring. I argue that “quite often, the best approach to learning more about our children’s culture is to immerse ourselves in it. Should we worry about the content found in some games, music, or videos? Perhaps we should. Sitting down and consuming that content with our kids and talking to them about it might be the best way to better understand their culture and then mentor them accordingly.”
Anyway, read my entire essay over at Forbes. And, on a related note, I highly recommend this new piece by Perri Klass, M.D. in The New York Times: “Seeing Social Media as Adolescent Portal More Than Pitfall.” It adopts a similar approach.