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A Mormon dad's view: Why I’m not talking to my children about Miley Cyrus

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 7:11 p.m. MDT

Miley Cyrus poses backstage at the Teen Choice Awards at the Gibson Amphitheater on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, in Los Angeles. Since Cyrus' performance at the MTV VMAs, social media has exploded with negative responses from parents. (Jordan Strauss, Invision, Associated Press) Miley Cyrus poses backstage at the Teen Choice Awards at the Gibson Amphitheater on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, in Los Angeles. Since Cyrus' performance at the MTV VMAs, social media has exploded with negative responses from parents. (Jordan Strauss, Invision, Associated Press)

Since the VMAs, there have been several articles circulating in social media addressing what parents may or may not be saying to their children about Miley Cyrus. I firmly believe parents should wisely counsel their children — and to that end, I am not wasting any time talking to my children about Miley Cyrus or anything that may have happened at the VMAs. Let me explain.

The 25-hour media, including social media, are becoming increasingly dominated by dopamine-inducing catchphrases, hashtags and stories that pass over substance in favor of the trivial. As a result, our collective attention spans have become so short that news must be expressed in less than complete sentences, and if we are not careful, these topics replace the real topics we should be discussing with our kids.

This is a latent risk to parents raising children in this environment. We can become so distracted by the here, the now and the in-our-face that we succumb to the noise and distraction, and the latest viral headlines drive our discourse with our children. We then spend our limited and precious time talking to our children about the banal, the trivial and the inconsequential — all three of which very nicely epitomize Miley Cyrus and the VMAs.

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has warned, “When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life. Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction.” As parents in today’s world, we are faced with headlines and distractions in terms of what we should teach our children. If we drill beneath the incrustation of the world’s delirium, however, we find crucial topics crying out for attention.

The danger of distraction is clearly apparent when we juxtapose the recent VMAs to the tragic events in Syria. It has been reported by U.S. administration officials that there were more than 400 children killed in one attack. To put this in perspective, the attack killed the equivalent of nearly my entire high school graduating class. While Miley Cyrus continues to dominate headlines, somehow this tragic human story has disappeared. Where is the outrage, angst and vitriol? Is everyone too busy watching reruns of the VMAs? The idiocy has replaced the imperative.

As parents, have we taken the time to talk to our kids about these tragic events in Syria and their impact on our collective future? Have we refused to be distracted by the yelling, the shouting and the twerking of the world to really focus on what is most important? Or are we too riveted to the trivial because, in so many ways, it is easier?

Kids of this rising generation are intelligent and full of faith. They have a better understanding of the gospel and an unprecedented closeness to the Spirit. What they need are parents that love them enough and give them enough credit to focus their attention not on what happens on MTV but what is happening in the actual world that they are poised to inherit.

What children don’t need is for us to waste precious energy and time emphasizing that they shouldn’t do whatever Miley did. Show me children that looked shocked when their parents told them not to pattern their lives after Miley. Late-breaking news: There are none. They already knew it. Today’s kids are smart and capable of identifying that behavior for what it is. Life is too short and moments are too few to waste time talking to kids about the obvious. There are greater battles for which children must be prepared.

Some parents may be wondering, with the mass of information, how to identify what is worth discussing with their children. I understand that this is a difficult and personal decision. Here are some suggestions.

For starters, consider talking to your kids about things that happen in real life, where real people confront real issues. Talk about the ambiguous, the obscure and the confusing. Help them recognize and accept tragedy and pay attention to the human story that is never uploaded to the Internet. Define how to create meaningful relationships offline and how to make positive contribution to the future. And after having all of these discussions with your kids, no one will really care what happened at the VMAs because it doesn’t matter anymore.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company