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Facebook, Privacy, and the Commoditization of Children

child well-being, children, culture, family, fathers, marriage, mothers, social media No comments


By MARRI Intern
Recently on Slate, author Amy Webb recounted the story of a friend who frequently posts pictures of her young daughter on Facebook. In her opinion, these digital memories are irreversibly “preventing [the daughter] from any hope of future anonymity.” In reaction to this modern way of public life, before Webb’s daughter was even born she and her husband created social media profiles and a Gmail account for their child. When she is old enough their daughter will have access to an online presence, if she so chooses. Now that their daughter has been born, they diligently monitor social media websites to ensure that none of their friends or relatives posts pictures or personal information about their child.
While Webb’s prerogative as a parent is not in question, she does raise an interesting (and rather concerning) question: what are parents doing to children’s futures by putting them in the public spotlight before they are conscious of the decision? In the past, baby pictures were kept at home in an album; today they are broadcast on the internet. Before modern technology, a person had to know the parents to be able to see a child’s pictures; now, depending on your internet privacy know-how, anyone can see them, including corporate face recognition software. There are babies and children on social media news feeds that users have never met and likely never will because they are the step-nephew-in-law of their college roommate’s best friend (or something like that). While there are cynical applications to remove babies from their news feeds, this is not the point. The point is that society has changed. Americans are increasingly willing to share private details of their lives in a public forum, sometimes with unfortunate negative consequences.
There are countless stories of parents finding pictures of their children being used for advertising, for fake online accounts or even for child pornography. Furthermore, many children born into this generation will have had an online presence since before they were born (think sonogram pictures). American parents have shifted from protecting their children’s privacy to publicly displaying their children. Sons and daughters have arguably become yet another possession that one may flaunt before neighbors. How many “likes” will I get if I post a picture of my child doing x? Look at my baby’s adorable new clothes! And on it goes. Even celebrities effectively place a dollar value on their children by selling the rights to their baby’s first pictures. Parents’ love for and adoration of their children is certainly not in question here, but are these parents devaluing their child by sharing him or her with the world?
Perhaps these parents could instead spend their efforts on become more actively involved in their children’s lives and education to ensure the best chance for their success. Click here for more information from MARRI on what involvement in your child’s life at a young age can mean for his or her development.

Electric Zoo, Family Structure, and Substance Abuse

crime, family, intact family, religion, youth No comments


By MARRI Intern
A week and half before their Labor Day music festival, Electric Zoo posted a notice on their blog encouraging their participant “party animals” to “keep the positive party vibes flowing by looking out for each other.” The post advised against illegal drug use but also outlined common signs of drug abuse and included a map of where to find on-site medical facilities. While many attendees may have followed this recommendation and enjoyed their weekend, a few attendees did not. Electric Zoo was forced to cancelthe third and final day of the event due to two tragic overdoses and a number of hospitalized attendees on the first two days.
Fueling the public’s negative reaction to the Labor Day fatalities is the professional history of the Electric Zoo’s founder. One of the founder’s partner clubs in Chelsea, Twilo, was shut down in 2001 following two fatal MDMA overdoses. The fact that both deaths at this year’s Electric Zoo were also reported as MDMA overdoses has certainly made this tragedy a bitter pill to swallow. But where do we draw the line? Can we put all the responsibility on the clubs which organized and repeatedly turned a blind eye to illegal substance abuse? Surely, we cannot ignore the freedom of choice exercised by club and party attendees to partake in the use of illegal substances.
Who is to blame? Society, the clubs, the victims, their parents? The breakdown of the intact married family has many far-reaching effects, including an increased propensity to engage in wrong and damaging behavior, such as illegal drug use. Recent trends indicate that most twelfth graders believe that the availability of, and access to drugs has become easier and easier. And while we all know that drug abusers can come from every background, MARRI Research indicates that children of divorce have a significantly increased risk of crime, as well as drug use. Additionally, research has shown that the more youth who worship weekly exhibit the least hard drug use.
So perhaps at the end of the day, we are left only with the tasks of mourning the precious lives lost and of determinedly perpetuating a culture of intact families who worship weekly, engender healthy values, and raise children who choose not to turn to substance abuse.

There was black and white, but now we have Grey

family, Hollywood, MARRI, pornography No comments


By MARRI Intern
50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James is a novel about a college student named Anastasia and her relationship with young millionaire, Christian Grey. Their relationship involves not merely “hooking up” but BDSM, which stands for bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. The book portrays Christian and Anastasia’s relationship as violent and demeaning, rather than the intimate relationship God designed sex to be.
In addition to the 2012 novel’s buzz, Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson were recently cast for the roles of Christian and Anastasia in the new Universal Pictures film.  But the impending production of a Fifty Shadesadaptation engenders deeper controversy than whether or not these actors will play their parts well.
With guarantees from Fifty Shades’ screenwriter Kelly Marcel of a NC-17 rating, a more sobering and disconcerting question to ask is how did a novel so unashamedly focused on unorthodox (to say the least) sexual practices produce enough interest and hype that a major film studio would want to produce it?  Furthermore, a recent study showed that 90% of women view pornography as degrading; and yet it has been the novel’s vast female readership that has propelled its popularity and buzz.
So why haven’t women seen 50 Shades of Grey for what it is? As a nation, we need to decide what we want our minds filled with. Will we dwell on what is pure and good or on that which morally is not?

For more on pornography’s detrimental effects, check out these MARRI resources.

Belonging to the Exception

abortion, abstinence, conscience, economics, education, family, MARRI No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

Over the weekend, I was privileged to attend a lecture taught by a woman who devotes her life to pregnancy center and maternity home ministries.  Her presentation focused on the differences among generations, and how to best reach and engage the current generation, Gen Y (born 1977-1995).  According to her notes, my generation has the most disposable income and is very technologically gifted, but we also suffer from short attention spans and the inability to discern actions and consequences.  On average, Gen Y is passively characterized by (and too often actively boasts in) high levels of sexual promiscuity.  Highly influenced by the media, Gen Y’s are devoted to the doctrine of “cool,” and consequently, they explore true Biblical doctrine only when it enhances (and never contradicts) their fleeting idol of fame. 
“Why?”  Quickly this became the pervasive murmur among the audience.  She gave a few reasons, but implored us to engage in individual research, as she didn’t have time to explore all the factors involved.  Sitting there, pondering this less than glowing portrait of my generation, I could not help but recall MARRI’s “Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.”  
According to MARRI’s report, in the United States, the national rejection score was larger than the belonging score.  Putting faces to these figures reveals the majority of children are living in a broken family as of 2009.  As the speaker described, our culture (sitcoms saturated with sex, personal credit cards, and adult privileges sans consequences) bears some responsibility for Gen Y’s behavior, but the formation of these characteristics begins with a fractured family.  As Dr. Fagan and Dr. Zill predict, “It is unavoidable that the major institutions of future families, church, school, the marketplace, and government will be similarly weakenedas these children gradually take their place within these institutions.”
And indeed, we are seeing breakdowns in these institutions as time progresses.  This weekend’s speaker noted that most of Gen Y holds only part-time employment, and many articles report an unemployed or underemployed status for Gen Y’s.  You can blame a poor economy or the need for a graduate degree, but as articulated in “162 Reasons to Marry,” we need look no further than the broken family for the origin of this trend.  A child glimpses his first working marketplace through his family.  “Within a family built on such a marriage, the child gradually learns to value and perform these five fundamental tasks of every competent adult and of every functional society” – marketplace (work) being one.  If the teaching unit is damaged, how can we expect the lesson to be whole?  If the marketplace isn’t functional in the family unit, how do we expect it to flourish on a national level?
This weekend’s speaker also commented that some large corporations won’t even hire Gen Y’s, and a quick internet search brings up quite a few articles with similar headlines.  As Kelly Clay concludes, based on recent statistics regarding employment and economy issues, “It seems more like a strong indicator of a generation with an issue of entitlement and extreme laziness – despite the opportunities that await them.”  Another recent article titled “The Go-Nowhere Generation,” seems to agree with Clay’s depiction of Gen Y or rather, “Generation Why bother.”   This article describes their lackadaisical reliance on “random” chance rather than an energetic pursuit of opportunity throughout the country. Clearly rejection at the family level is permeating the workplace and the work-ethic applied there. 
A married family does not just positively impact the marketplace.  Children from intact-married families also perform better in school, misbehave less, are more likely to remain abstinent, less likely to live in poverty, and more likely to attend church.  All of these tendencies contradict the typical characteristics of Generation Y.  Clearly, there are exceptions to this generation generalization, and belonging within a family greatly enhances one’s ability to belong to the exceptional group. 

We Live in a Polyamorous Society

abstinence, culture, divorce, family, monogamy, Pat Fagan No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

It’s common to hear complaints of how horrible it is that in certain cultures and religions, polygamy is respected and normal. We hear an outcry that it attacks woman’s dignity and reduces them to objects. But have those who are raising this outcry ever stopped to question whether their own sexual behavior may be reducing their human dignity?
Where is the difference, when men and women in Western society embrace sexual activity with whomever they please, whenever they please, leading to multiple sexual partners by the time they are thirty? The difference between the culture of the traditional family, based on a lifelong sexual relationship with one person, and our present culture is in the way sexual conduct is viewed, practiced, and taught. My question today is this: Have we ever considered that we might be living in a polygamous society?
  
As Pat Fagan points out, in the Western culture of polyamorous sexuality, family life is just one option among many other lifestyles. This culture treasures sexual freedom, meaning whatever is desired by the partners (two or more partners, as the case may be). It wants to eliminate religion and suppresses its public manifestations, attacking religious freedom. One’s moral code is individual and consequently relative; anyone should do as he or she pleases, not only sexually but in any arena of life (so if I need to kill an unborn child, I should have that right). In short, the idea of freedom is to have no constraints imposed on you, to have a carefree life.
The consequences of this misguided view of “freedom” range from HIV and unwanted pregnancies to child depression and adolescent suicide. Yet they are never seen for what they are: the results of sexual license.
On the other hand, a monogamous way of life defends marriage to one person of the opposite sex for life. In this culture, family life benefits not only the spouses but the children and community. Couples who are married report being happier; children who grow up in intact families are more likely to grow up mentally stable, to finish college, and to delay sexual activity, as MARRI research explains in 162 reasons to marry.
The monogamous culture also treasures the worship of God, which strengthens relationships, education, and psychological wellbeing. In addition, the culture of monogamy defends universal moral norms, the freedom to pursue the good, and the defense of human life.
So what kind of society do you want to live in? What kind of culture do you want your children to grow up in? I would like to live in an environment where my moral code is protected and defended, where education in virtue is present in our schools, and where the defense of life and marriage is unquestioned. I encourage you to take active part in this lifestyle and become an example to others who have never acknowledged the importance of marriage and commitment. The monogamous culture does far more than our Western polyamorous society to uphold human dignity.

Divorce: Breaking Down the Building Block

divorce, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

By  Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

Watch any Hollywood romance, and you might think the best reason to get married is passionate romantic love because the purpose of marriage is the satisfaction of the couple. But marriage is about more than the couple and their feelings. According to an FRC Issues Analysis brief titled “Why Marriage Should Be Privileged in Public Policy,” marriage is “the basic social building block” and “produces a stronger nation that benefits many future generations.” MARRI research shows over 150 reasons why marriage should be protected by society.
Unfortunately, the marriage institution has been weakened by decades of widespread divorce. Let’s analyze this social phenomenon.
In the past, marriage was not only the social institution that protected and provided for children, but also an economic “investment” and a safe haven. While the couple experienced romantic love, the relationship did not exist for their mutual emotions. Until the 18th century, couples were often married according to the wishes of their parents.
The rise of Romanticism encouraged a new view of marriage with the idea of “true love.” The sexual revolution took this further when it redefined relationships as a means to personal fulfillment: “Whatever works for the couple, to enhance their emotions and bring passion to the relationship, is what marriage should be all about.” Soon these emotions and sentiments became independent of childbearing, assisted by the appearance of the Pill, which helped separate sexuality both from mutual self-giving and from childbearing.
With the legalization of no-fault divorce, it became clear that marriage was only about being “in love.” This relationship was now independent of common good, community, generosity, hard work, self-giving, children….it was only about feeling an emotional bond.
Today, since marriage is considered a private transaction, any couple is free to manipulate and even reinvent marriage. As modern “love” is individualistic, so is modern marriage. The soul of marriage has become “myself.”
This new vision of romantic love convinced people they would be happier. Unfortunately, it was an illusion. The divorce rate, often due to infidelity, has only increased. The 2011 MARRI Annual Report on Family Trends documents that in the U.S the divorce rate from 1958 to 1978 went from 2.1 to 5.3! When passionate love is the reason for marriage, it can also be the reason for its dissolution when the romance disappears.
What’s the problem? Emotions and sentiments change, mature, and grow with the couple. Does this mean that married people fall “out of love”? Of course not. But it means there must be more to marriage than feelings. There must be a mutual understanding of what you want out of life, a union in your priorities, and a solid friendship. Love must be nourished in everyday life, not just passionate encounters.
So what is the answer to our growing divorce rate? We must learn to build a marriage commitment that is based on more than passing emotions. We should plan for unions that are strong enough to do what marriage was designed to do – benefit future generations.

What Kind of Man Do You Want?

children, culture, family, feminism, marriage, men, social institutions, women 2 comments
By Sharon Barrett, Intern
It’s an eternal question: What do women want?
 
Last week, I came across this blog post on manhoodthat offered a partial answer:
 
Men in American society seem to fluctuate between two extremes….It seems barbarians [à la Han Solo of Star Wars, or Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance] are the kind of men women fall for from a distance, and then despise when they get close – the “bad boy” image. Wimps [like tenderfoot Ranse Stoddard, opposing Doniphon’s gun-slinging version of justice] seem to be the kind of men women despise from a distance and then get to know and start to care for as good provider, “beta males.”

But neither barbarians nor wimps are fully men.

 
What barbarian and wimp alike are lacking, the writer argues, is balance: an Aristotelian “golden mean” between tough and tender. Where one man excels in physique, business savvy, or rugged individualism, another may have aesthetic sense, intelligence, or a reputation for being “good with kids.” By implication, the man who balances these traits not only will achieve manliness in the eyes of other men, but will increase his attractiveness to women.
 
Can a “golden mean” between barbarian and wimp give women what they want? Yes – with this addition. Manhood is more than a middle way that combines ruggedness and gentleness for the sake of balance; it is a third way that employs a man’s abilities in the pursuit of a goal outside himself. Masculine strength is best defined in one word: commitment, the decision to give one’s word to another and stand by for the long haul. Men who embody commitment to a wife, family, job, and community are the ones who can reverse the current trend of fatherless families, broken marriages, and child poverty.
 
Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has taught women they don’t need this kind of man. In the words of feminist writer Hanna Rosin (author of The End of Men), “Women no longer need men for financial security and social influence. They can achieve those things by themselves.” (Nor do they need a man for help in raising children, since full-time daycare is only a phone call away. With the advent of Artificial Reproductive Technology, they no longer even need a man – other than a sperm donor – to conceive children.)
 
According to Ms. Rosin, the sexual revolution gave us “the ability to have temporary, intimate relationships that don’t derail a career.” Because career is (in her estimation) most important to women in their 20s and 30s, she continues,
 
No one is in a hurry to get married, and sex is, by the terms of sexual economics, very cheap. When sex is cheap, more men turn into what the sociologist Mark Regnerus calls “free agents.” They sleep with as many women as possible basically, [sic] because they can.
 
Men don’t need to strive for a “golden mean” when women pursue them for short-term pleasure without asking for commitment. Women perpetuate the hookup culture by allowing men to expect to take any woman to bed, no strings attached, as long they take her out for “a nice time” first (as Maria Reig Teetor reported last week). Women may suffer emotional pangs, but men are taking the real hit: since the 1960s, a “persistent ‘gap’” in employment has existed between married and unmarried men. Employment rates for single, divorced, and cohabiting men consistently plummet faster than rates for married men – in or out of a recession. A culture of marriage, on the other hand, by demanding commitment, actually makes men more employable.
 
When sex is cheap, commitment has no value whatsoever. When women live as if they don’t need men, real men disappear. And the economy and the family suffer equally.
 
In the end, women’s expectations set the bar for manhood. The question is still before us: Women, what kind of man do you want? The men are waiting for your answer.

May I have this [politically-correct, gender-ambiguous, tolerance-driven] dance?

child well-being, culture, education, family, gender, single parents 1 comment
By Lindsay Smith, Intern
By now you have probably heard the story: a single mom felt her daughter was being excluded from a school function, and voilà, no more father-daughter dances or mother-son baseball games in Rhode Island’s Cranston school district.  According to the superintendent, these events violate gender discrimination laws.  This mom, this superintendent, these lawyers were probably just trying to prevent kids from getting hurt, at least we will give the benefit of the doubt to their motives.  However, I am all too concerned about what research reveals: banning events like these harms the entire student body. 
Parents are important. Not surprisingly, abundant research supports this truth, especially in education.  On average, children from intact married families earn higher test scores, have higher high school GPAs, are less likely to drop out of school, and have better behavior than their peers.  In addition, “adolescent children of single-parent families or stepfamilies reported that their parents had lower educational expectations for them, were less likely to monitor schoolwork, and supervised social activities less than the parents of children in intact biological families.”  Based on these findings, one can see parental involvement directly correlates with academic success.  
 
Sadly, Cranston’s ruling reduces parental involvement, which at its core is fruitful to the district.  Cranston removed events which promote positive interaction.   I have never been employed as a teacher, but I would imagine most educators are thankful for engaged and helpful parents.  While I am not a teacher, I was a student, and can verify that involved parents, whether my own or another child’s, positively impacted my classroom experience.    The student body benefits when parents invest in education, in the school, and in the school’s activities.  The mayor of Cranston summarizes these findings well when he said, “[The events] contribute to the well being of our children as a whole.”Fathers taking their daughters to a school dance is positive.  Mothers taking their sons to a school baseball game is good, not because it promotes a child’s exclusion, but because it encourages parental participation. 
I do believe every child should have the chance to benefit from these activities.  I do believe every child can have an equal opportunity to attend – not by minimizing the traditional family (gender roles included) but by promoting it.  I heard it said once, “The problem is not that we have too much of Christ in our marriage; it’s that we don’t have enough.”  The same principle applies here.  People are not excluded because there is too little family love but because there is not enough.  Let me put some concrete words to this theory. 
Growing up, both sets of my grandparents lived over 10 hours away.  It wasn’t practical for them to attend my school functions.  However, when it came time for “Grandparentslunch day” at my elementary school, our sweet, elderly neighbor or my friend’s grandmother would always show up to eat with me.  Would I have liked my biological grandparents to be there?  Absolutely, but that doesn’t negate the wonderful times I had with these women who sacrificed their time for me.  I felt special; I felt loved; I felt included.    I propose a better solution is not to eliminate the event, but rather to embrace the child.  Allow traditional families to show what love and support look like and invite a child whose mom or dad can’t attend, whatever the reason.  Surely there are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, mentors in this community who would gladly take this young girl to the dance.  I bet there are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, who would gladly take another boy to the baseball game with their family.  Support the family, and support these traditions not in spite of the students but for their betterment.  When the family is stronger, education is stronger, and that’s something that should make us all get up and dance. 

Saving the life of the country: the dangers of “demographic suicide”

family, human capital, marriage, sexual revolution, world population No comments
Kevin J. Burns, Intern
Ever since Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 best-selling book The Population Bomb, there have been widespread concerns about overpopulation. But overpopulation is a myth, especially in western society. As Alejandro Macarron Larumbe argues in his recently-published article in Expansión, a Spanish economic newspaper, western populations are quickly shrinking and western economies are shrinking with them.
In developed countries, a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman will ensure population status quo. Larumbe’s article seeks to bring attention to Spain’s paltry fertility rate of 1.35. Across Europe, the native population is quickly shrinking, with an average fertility rate of 1.5. Even in the United States, the fertility rate is expected to bottom out at a 25-year low of 1.89 for 2012, down from a high of 2.12 in 2007.
Falling birth rates in the west should come as no surprise. In the wake of the sexual revolution – with the advent of no-fault divorce, cohabitation and legalized abortion – Americans have consistently chosen to put off having children until later in life, or even to avoid having children altogether. Even Carl Djerassi, one of the scientists who helped to develop the birth control pill, has protested against the devastating effects of this trend, warning that there is no longer any “connection at all between sexuality and reproduction.” One can make moral arguments about this phenomenon, but in this case moral arguments are unnecessary to prove the disastrous long-term consequences of our spiraling birth rates. With the decline in our fertility rates and population, our economic stability and viability are at stake.
Larumbe warns that the trend of “demographic suicide” in Spain may have massive economic repercussions on the country. Although he admits that Spain’s economy grew for roughly 40 years after her birthrates began to fall off – as a result of women working instead of staying at home with children, less capital spent on child-care, education and the like – Larumbe points out the blatantly obvious fact that this trend cannot continue into perpetuity.
We face the same harsh reality in the United States. Through the post-World War II era, the United States expected roughly four percent annual GDP growth, mostly from human capital (those skills, capacities and know-how contained in the human person and valued in the labor market). However, since the decline of the family and the nation’s fertility rates in the 1960s and 1970s, human capital’s contribution to GDP growth has been more than halved.
What is happening in Spain and the U.S. has global implications. The United Nations’ Population Division reports, “Perhaps the most significant demographic change over the past three decades has been the substantial decline in fertility in all areas of the world. Since 1970-1975 world total fertility has declined by 37 percent: from 4.5 births per woman to the 1995-2000 level of 2.8.”

What Kind of Equality are We Concerned With?

abortion, contraception, family, feminism, marriage No comments

Eileen Gallagher, Intern
In the past few months many people have been discussing the “War on Women.” In the news there has been a focus both on women’s “reproductive rights” and sex-selective abortions. These topics are very controversial because anyone who dares to think contraception or abortion is bad is contradicting feminist ideals, which include freedom, choice, and tolerance. Interestingly, recent research shows that equality between men and women, which feminists have been fighting for since the early 1900s, is no longer a problem. Two topics often discussed in the feminist movement are salary differences between men and women, as well as the persistent lack of women as top executives in the professional world. For feminists this is proof that we still live in a male dominated culture and that women are still oppressed. 
In 2008 Susan Pinker published a book called The Sexual Paradox which explores the paradox that “after decades of women’s educational coups and rising through the ranks, men still outnumber women in business, physical science, law, engineering and politics.” The author explains the paradox, basing her argument in human nature. Men and women are different. In the past 50 years women have had the same opportunities as men in world of education, and gradually girls have had greater academic successes than boys. The ratio of girls to boys among valedictorians or honors students in schools throughout the country is proof of the change. Girls, on average, get better grades than boys in school, and in the past few years more women than men have been graduating from college and graduate programs. If there is a war involving women in the education world, the women are winning it. 
But Susan Pinker’s paradox has not been answered: if women are more successful than men at a younger age, why do they still get paid less than men? This is when an understanding of human nature can provide answers. Women have innate maternal instincts, and even if they do not become biological mothers, many (though of course not all) women would rather work with and help people (e.g., social work and nursing are female-dominated professions) rather than doing the design work of engineers, or the lab work of scientists. Certainly some women enjoy these jobs, but many gravitate toward careers where they feel they are making a tangible difference in people’s lives. The careers that pay the most, such as engineering, computer science, architecture, and medicine, often are unattractive to women because of the type of work or the demanding hours. Many women want to be become mothers and it is nearly impossible for a doctor doing her residency to also have a newborn baby. A woman who wants to have children often chooses to be a nurse or a teacher, who will not earn as much as a doctor, but will have flexibility to be available for her children. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute showed that people are more likely to report being proud of the work they do if they are married. It seems that marriage and family life can bring about greater happiness in the working world, contrary to the feminists’ ideas.
Human nature explains the pay difference, as well as the lack of women as top executives. The path to become a senior staff member in a company generally involves decades of long hours, late nights, and little vacation time. Women are capable of this, but often do not want it. Many mothers gladly give up their dreams of a big house and fancy car for a few more hours at home each day, and to greet their children as they come off the bus from school. The feminist movement continues to cry for equality between men and women, but there are different types of equality. Equality of opportunity has been achieved, but equality of outcomes is impossible because men and women are naturally different.