- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

Parents who feel outgunned, outmaneuvered and just plain defeated by today’s lightning-fast, multitasking, techno-wizardry world have an ally in Rebecca Hagelin.

The former vice president of the Heritage Foundation and married mother of three has written a book to “practically and concretely” help parents engage, protect and strengthen their families.

Her goal is simple: “Equip parents to fight the culture battle.”

“I’ve found that once you explain the cultural challenges to parents, they get it — and they want help,” Mrs. Hagelin says.

Her new book, “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family,” is her answer to how parents can “start today” to upgrade their relationships with their children, open new lines of communication and teach them to decipher the manipulative messages of marketers.

The Information Age has totally changed the landscape for parenting, says Mrs. Hagelin, who writes a regular column at Townhall.com.

Today’s children “have never not known the Internet. They have never not known texting,” she said. Technology — instant messaging, iPods, video games, multitasking with media — is all second nature to them, she says with a laugh. “If I have a BlackBerry issue, I can hand it to my daughter and she can figure it out — without reading any instructions.”

Marketers, however, are also fully plugged in, and they are using the mass media to bypass parents and “weave their way into our kids’ pockets,” she says.

According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), she says:

• Teens spend $159 billion a year, and children younger than 14 spend $40 billion a year.

• Children and teens are highly brand-conscious. Teens between 13 and 17 have 145 conversations a week about brands, about twice as many as adults.

• Companies spend about $17 billion a year marketing just to children. Children ages 2 to 11 see 25,000 advertisements annually on television — this doesn’t count ads that might be seen via the Internet, cell phones, MP3 players, video games, on school buses and in schools.

Marketers want a piece of all this kid-consumer action and they are not averse to using sexuality and other inappropriate messages to attract and keep the kids’ attentions, says Mrs. Hagelin, who steers parents to CCFC, Parents Television Council, National Institute on Media and the Family, and Salvo magazine, which she helps edit, for more information.

The chapters in “30 Ways” that Mrs. Hagelin thinks will be helpful to parents in general are the ones about writing a love letter to one’s child, painting a vision of adulthood for them and finding allies in the cultural battle.

Mrs. Hagelin even took her own advice — she stepped down from her perch at the nation’s largest conservative think tank to spend more time with her family.

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