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Keeping up with technology

Is your way of parenting in sync with your tech-savvy but unfocused child? Doubtful, some experts say, unless you're on fast-forward.

"Technology has moved faster than parents' ability to keep up with it," says Jacquie Ream, a former educator and author of "YNK -- You Never Know" (Book Publishers Network, 2010), a book geared to junior-high students.

The hot-button trend that has brought unwanted national attention: Kids born after 1990, the second half of "Generation Y," are defined by the Internet, iChat, iMovie and iTunes -- and they think the world is about "I," says Tim Elmore, author of "Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future" (Poet Gardner, 2010).

Selfish or not, millions of kids are digitally dissed any time of day -- or worse, killed. Guidance about friendships, limits on screen time and paying attention to what your kids are up to will help keep them out of the growing nationwide cyber-bullying problem -- whether as the bully or the bullied, Ream and Elmore suggest.

In addition to insisting on blocks of "no-screen" time and appropriate face-to-face relationships, Ream says, parents need to teach their children to put a higher value on their friendships.

"Internet sites like Facebook have taught kids that making a friend is as easy as clicking 'yes' to accept a friend request," Ream says. Ending a friendship is even easier. "Just click on 'block,' and that person's out of your life."

The Internet can be an asset to education but a time-eating distraction unless kids have rules such as homework comes before iChats, says Ann Dolin, author of "Homework Made Simple" (Advantage Books, 2010).

One of many homework problems that parents cannot ignore, says Dolin: Kids get used to listening to their iPods, texting and checking their Facebook pages all at the same time. Then when it comes time to concentrate on one task, such as reading or studying, they lack the ability to focus on any one thing.

The "hyper-help" parenting style prevalent over the past two decades hasn't actually helped young adults, says Elmore. Teenagers and adults in their early 20s feel more stressed than ever, studies show. They're socially connected around the clock, but ill-equipped for the workplace and face-to-face relationships.

Kids of all ages are missing out on the route toward independence, because they're unfamiliar with "trying, failing and then persevering," Elmore says.

If your parenting style falls into any of these eight groups that Elmore writes about, you may need to backtrack to get your teenager on the right track to adulthood.

*"Helicopter parents" who are controlling to assure that all goes well for their kids.

*"Karaoke parents" who attempt to be their child's buddy, sounding and acting the same.

*"Dry-cleaner parents" who drop their kids off for other parents and professionals to raise them.

*"Volcano parents" who are overinvolved, then erupt suddenly over relatively minor issues.

*"Dropout parents" who give up on the job, physically, emotionally or financially, and quit trying to raise their kids.

*"Bullied parents" are worn down by their strong-willed kids and give up on discipline.

*"Commando parents" have an authoritative style and focus on raising compliant and perfect children but wind up instilling anxiety.

*"Groupie parents" view their children as "stars who are to be honored and served." What the child wants, the child gets.

The take-home line: "Kids have a better chance of growing up if their parents do so first," Elmore says.

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