If you are not familiar with MySpace, you are out of the loop. If you are a parent of children under the age of 25 or so, and you are not familiar with MySpace…Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Stop right now and take time to get educated. A good parent tutorial is available through the National Institute on Media and the Family, a source I highly recommend for equipping parents and families on a wide range of media/family related issues. Another great resource for research based information and recommendations regarding families, entertainment, and health is the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. A third excellent resource is the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. But encouraging you to familiarize yourself with this huge online community is not really the point of today’s post. I want to share some reflections/lessons I have taken from my experience of MySpace (not actually having a MySpace page myself).
1. Our young people are desperate for relationships. Just look at the size of the “friends” list on the typical MySpace page, and how quickly it grows in the course of a month. Parents and other mentors, this is a great opportunity for us! Provided you approach them with a genuine love and acceptance for who they are, and a healthy respect for the importance of their friends in their lives, your children really are thirsty for a relationship with you. Don’t be intimidated by the electronic gadgetry of their lives. Be there.
2. Music is so personal and important in the lives of our young people. Spend any time navigating the waters of MySpace, and you will hear an amazing array of musical styles, themes, and expressions. Listen to the music. Hear the words of the songs (www.azlyrics.com is a helpful resource). Feel the emotions. Like it or not, this is the expression of their hearts and lives. Don’t just dismiss it or condemn it. Take it to heart, and let it lead you closer to the hearts of the young people you love.
3. Young people are willingly making their lives “open books.” The question is…will we invest the time it takes to read them?
4. Young people are spending vast amounts of time online. Look at how much work is put into MySpace pages, and how constant the dialog is on the message boards. Although I recognize there are multiple reasons for the growing obesity epidemic in America, particularly among young people, spending hours a day online has got to be a big factor.
5. Young people are creating their own world, language, and view of life – and it is a whole other reality from the general adult culture. For a much deeper, and not particularly pleasant, insight into this phenomenon, read “Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenager” by Chap Clark.
6. YOUNG PEOPLE NEED YOU! There is no better place to invest your time and energy than in our children and adolescents – and you don’t have to stop with your own. They need us to be there for them, loving and guiding and accepting and challenging and believing in them. Many are literally dying for us to invest in them. When you have a few minutes, and you are ready to be inspired, check out www.makeadifferencemovie.com (OK, the music and narrator’s voice are a little cheesy and may remind you of “Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy,” but don’t let that keep the story from inspiring you.)
With Hope – Always,