Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cooling It on Coolness

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cooling It on Coolness

Article excerpt

My daughter turned 9 last spring, so her formative years are over.

As my dad used to say, the canoe is built; now she has to start paddling. I believe my job is to help her navigate the complex currents of daily life without capsizing.

I know many parents worry that sinister forces are lurking everywhere, waiting to trap unsuspecting children who wander out the front door. These concerns aren't groundless, just exaggerated. We can't protect our kids by shielding them from the real world. I'm trying to give my daughter enough knowledge and confidence to seek out good influences, reject bad ones, and make the best use of her own special talents.

Keep in mind that youth culture is a fairly recent development. By the end of World War II, Americans found themselves confronted by teenagers who were developing new trends in dressing, music, and social relations. Parents had become squares; kids wanted to be cool. The point I emphasize to my own child, and to anyone else who will listen, is that the pursuit of coolness is seldom satisfying. Trying to win acceptance from a peer group usually means suppressing your own individuality. It's also a lousy way to build self-esteem.

However, peer pressure is small change compared to the ongoing barrage of messages directed at kids by media and advertising. Having worked in radio and TV for almost two decades, I know the system. Commercials pay the bills, and toy commercials are always compelling. But I steer my daughter into focusing her attention on how the ads are deliberately set up to give an enhanced view of the product.

The little girls riding in a battery powered Barbie-mobile are cruising around a front yard as big as the Ewing Ranch on "Dallas." Real front yards, like ours, don't offer the same territorial options. Better still are scenes of boys playing with action figures. …

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