posted by on Digital Parenting, Online Safety, Parenting, Uncategorized

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Ten reasons kids should be online at an early age

Credit: Pixabay, Jason ONeill

Much has been made of the potentially hazardous landscape for children that is the internet, and rightly so. Parents do need to be concerned about how their children make use of this valuable tool, and a valuable tool it surely is.

No longer a luxury but a basic necessity that each person will need to familiarize himself with in order to function in our society. That’s why it’s important that new generations become tech savvy at as early an age as is practical.

Let’s look at ten reasons kids should be online at an early age:

  1. Research Tool – For school studies, projects or as a general educational aid, there is just no substitute for the worldwide web. It’s the primary means by which information is disseminated in the 21st century. Kids need to know how to use it as soon as possible.
  2. Social Networking – Like it or not, more of a child’s socializing will occur online with each passing year. It should never fully subjugate personal interaction, of course, but we cannot ignore the significance of the internet in today’s society, especially as it applies to young people.
  3. Getting Acquainted – Like anything else a kid is expected to master, navigating the internet safely should be something that a parent and child can work on together. If a child becomes acclimated to the internet early on under supervision, she will have less chance of stumbling into trouble later out of ignorance or naiveté.
  4. Interest Groups – Your child can benefit from involvement with the right kind of crowds when he meets other kids with similar interests in forums or on websites where they gather and share information.
  5. It Will Demystify the Web – The sooner a child is inducted into cyberspace, the better equipped she will be to incorporate it into her life later as she matures and needs to rely on it more.
  6. It’s a perfect Vehicle For a Child to Discover Interests – and possibly a lifelong vocation. Prior generations could go years without ever having heard about fields of study or interests that might appeal to them. It can be done in a matter of days, if not hours, online.
  7. Education – Beyond its functionality as a study aid, the internet can be an instructional tool for itself as well. That is, children can learn the protocols and hazards related to its use, both in formal training at school and at home with their parents.
  8. Balanced Perspective – The alternative to addressing an area of concern early on – as in the case of sex ed or drugs –  is for a child to learn on his own, via his peers, or at best, through an education that comes too late to avert the consequences of his ignorance. A child with an early introduction to the internet at least starts off with some frame of reference with which to work later.
  9. Cyberbullying – The unfortunate reality is that a lot of cruelty and mean-spirited behavior is prevalent online. It stands to reason that children who learn to use the internet for social networking at an early age can better identify, with the help of parents and teachers, the situations they should avoid.
  10. E-commerce – Kids will be growing up in a world where conducting business of every kind, from paying utility bills to buying groceries, will be done on the web. They need to learn the ropes as soon as possible.

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Facebook, Facebook safety, Online Life, Online reputation, Oversharing, Parenting, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips

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7 ways to help your teen avoid bad habits on social media.

You had to have seen this one coming: kids are picking up bad habits from their extensive use of social media. This can’t come as too big of a surprise though, because it stands to reason that something so popular and fun would be bound to have some ill effects.

Not that we’re condemning social media, mind you, but there are a few potential pitfalls to watch out for regarding your child’s usage.

The following are seven bad habits that teens pick up from social media platforms:

  1. TMI – To be honest, many of us are already guilty of grossly over-sharing our personal lives on social media. When you have a place to update your status 24/7, though, it shouldn’t come as any real surprise that eventually one’s entire personal life is right there for anyone and everyone to read on their profile.
  2. Inappropriate Friending – It tends to be an automatic reaction for some to “friend” someone after they’ve added you, accompanied by the friend confirmation request, whether this person is someone you know well or not. While they may not like the idea of saying ‘no’, safety should have a higher priority than popularity. Keep in mind, most platforms don’t inform people when you decline their request. Remind your child, it’s about quality over quantity.
  3. Posting Inappropriate Photos – Inappropriate photographs always seem to find their way onto people’s social pages. For that matter, taking such photos in the first place is ill-advised, to say the least. Coupled with the prospect of being friended by stalkers and strangers, not to mention being available for any potential employers or school officials, this makes for a very dangerous mix.
  4. Poor Time Management – It’s very easy to lose track of one’s time while socializing on many networks, and hours at a time can be lost without even realizing it, often at the expense of more important things like homework, chores, etc. It may be wise to install a filter software that can monitor use and block certain sites during specified time periods to ensure that your kids don’t spend too much time on the website.
  5. Indiscriminate Downloading – Many social sites are notorious for third party apps that seek to gain access to personal data and the friend lists of members who use them. There’s a large risk associated with accepting gifts via some of these app, unfortunately, that could end up compromising your personal information.
  6. Poor Grammar – As with chat rooms, IM’s, and text messaging, all of which came prior to social media, posts (comments) can tend toward cyber shorthand, whether it’s in the interest of brevity or simply born out of sheer laziness. Although it’s acceptable – even necessary in some cases – to limit character usage, it’s very easy for this habit to leak over to your child’s more formal writing and correspondence. Never forget, your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character.
  7. Not Safeguarding Personal Info – Social platforms provides varying levels of privacy settings for its users. Members can share everything with anyone, or limit access to their profile to just friends and/or family. Kids today have become ok and even lax with the safeguarding of their personal information, and identity theft, stalking or harassment can end up being one of the penalties for your child being too open with his or her personal information. Encourage your kids to review their privacy settings on all the apps they are engaged on. This should be repeated monthly – since many networks update their technology frequently and we have seen loopholes happen.

Finally, don’t forget it’s important to set boundaries on screen-time. As a matter of fact, studies has proven the majority of children want their parent’s to give them limits.

Join me on Facebook  and follow me on Twitter for more information and educational articles on parenting today’s teenagers.

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Online activity, Online Life, Online profile, Online reputation, Online resume, Online Shaming, Oversharing, Reputation Management

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Online Reputation: A reflection of your character both online and offline.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay: Mohammad Hassan

As we are witnessing unemployment rise, people are becoming more and more anxious and stressed about their future. This is all completely understandable — the unknown can be scary especially when it concerns money, jobs and careers.

More time online

During this quarantine life, we’re not only seeing more kids online, adults (parents) are also finding social media as a place to communicate with friends and family.

What everyone (teens and adults alike) need to realize, is what you post today, can potentially affect your future. Especially if you are someone that will be searching for a job or applying to colleges, it’s imperative that you are mindful with not only your online behavior (during this COVID19 health crisis) but also offline.

You don’t want to be someone that is caught on video breaching your state orders, treating someone unkindly at a store or harassing people online. We all have to remember, we’re all a click away from digital disgrace. Your online reputation, today, it typically the first impression someone will have of you.

Pause…. before you post

As social media permeates all aspects of our personal and professional lives, what you post online can have serious and lasting consequences. In a 2018 CareerBuilders survey, some of the primary reasons that employers didn’t hire job candidates after an internet search was the following:

  • 40% Posted inappropriate photographs, videos or information
  • 36% Posted information about them drinking or using drugs
  • 31% Had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc.
  • 30% Was linked to criminal behavior
  • 27% Had poor communication skills
  • 25% Bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee
  • 22% Screen name was unprofessional
  • 20% shared confidential information from previous employers

It’s important to note, if you were laid-off, be very careful not to disparage your previous employer or co-workers, or share their information. No one wins. You won’t score any brownie points, as your potential employer will realize if you are doing this to them, there’s a good possibility if things don’t work out with a new company, that same behavior would happen again.

Bye, bye to silly emails names. Especially for young people out there, or even adults that haven’t retired their old email addresses, such as chillinbeanz[at]aol.com – it’s time to implement your name as your email account. If it’s already taken, find a professional variation.

Online behavior

As I said, it’s not only more kids online, there are more people in general online. This means more business owners, college admissions and others that could potentially be part of your future.

The way you behave online is a reflection of not only your character (online and offline), it truly is the first impression people will have of you.

5 Ways to improve our digital behavior:

  1. Become an up-stander when you witness cyber-hate.
  2. Think twice, post once. 15 minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of humiliation. There’s a difference between clever and cruel – especially online.
  3. Guidelines for safe sharing online.
  4. Be constructive with your comments, not combative. (Hate can perpetuates hate, click out if you can’t control yourself). Anger is temporary, the internet is forever.
  5. Report, flag and talk about harassment. (Make sure your kids know these features too).

We many not be mingling much in person, but there’s no doubt social media is getting a lot of traction. Be sure you’re putting your best digital footprint forward. Online reputation is everything today.

posted by on Depression, Digital Parenting, Internet Addiction, Online bullying, Online Life, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Struggling Teens, Summer Camps, Teen Depression, Teen Help

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Internet addiction, is it real? YES!

Teens on a beach, yet immersed in their digital life.
Image: Pexels

Today we are facing a time when teen depression is on the rise. Young people are struggling with anxiety, stress and overwhelmed by peer pressure. They are completely immersed in their screens without considering their emotional or physical health.

Warning signs

-An obsession with being online
-Frustration, anxiety, and irritability when not able to get online
-Abandoning friends (family) or hobbies in order to stay digitally connected
-Continuing to spend time online even after negative repercussions (such as failing grades, deteriorating relationships, and even health issues)

Have you tried:

  • Phone contracts
  • Removing their devices
  • Local therapy
  • Digital detox plans

But find your teen still falling back into their old obsessive patterns?

Getting help

With summer around the corner, Reset Summer Camp could be a great option for your family.

Reset Summer Camp offers a fully immersive, clinical program hosted on a university campus, providing a fun-filled summer camp atmosphere. Participants are able to detox from their screen addiction and learn how to self-regulate, as they participate in individual and group therapy.

Both affordable and effective, Reset offers a 4 week programs for teens (13-17) and 2 week programs for kids (8-12). Visit www.resetsummercamp.com for more information. They also offer financial assistance.

Residential therapy

Maybe your teen has escalated to a point where he needs more than 4 weeks? In some situations the teen is struggling both emotionally and physically to a point that they need more intense care and attention.

This is where Parent Universal Resources can help you find safe and quality options.

Keep in mind, this is not about removing technology from your child’s life. It’s about giving them the tools to have a healthy relationship with their digital world.

posted by on Civility, Cyberbullying, Online Life, Online reputation, Online Safety, Online Shaming, Peer Cruelty

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Social distancing shouldn’t be cruel.

Photo: Pixabay, Geralt

We are living in an extremely stressful and unusual times with the corona virus outbreak (COVID-19).

With the majority of schools, restaurants, bars, retail stores, small businesses, etc…. closing – this means people are not only facing financial hardships, the emotional well-being of individuals is at risk too.

Unfortunately we’re also witnessing the ugly side of people, as they scour to get the last of the toilet paper, or treat cashiers with rudeness blaming them when a store is out of items they need.

I’ve seen all this happening and it’s really disturbing. One patron at our local grocery store literally called a girl that was bagging his food a retard!

Does he get a pass for being stressed out in this trying time? Absolutely not! This young girl is special needs and has been working in our local store for almost a year – she’s very proud of the work she does.

She didn’t let him phase her, but later told one of our neighbors how hurtful it was. This crisis is not an excuse for cruel and mean behavior.

An important lesson we all must be mindful of is our kids, as well as many that are now out of school, are watching how adults are behaving. As that man insulted a special needs person doing her job, what message did that send out to young people that may have witnessed it?

Especially during this time of uncertainty – we all need to be conscious of how we treat others, there are many young eyes that are impressionable. Never doubt, you are your child’s biggest influence.

Social awareness – not social shaming

If you are someone who is quick to judge others for their behavior—maybe they are in a bar or any public area where you believe they shouldn’t be, and you are going to publicly shame them digitally—take the time to reconsider. Maybe they have a reason to be there or maybe it’s none of your business.

Please remember when things go viral, it can impact a person’s future. Their ability to get a job could be jeopardized or the job they have could be at risk. 

It’s not about condoning bad behavior, it’s about being compassionate and empathetic  to other people’s needs, and understanding what they might be going through, especially if we don’t know them or the reason they are doing what you deem is wrong.

The aim and shame society

Maybe a person is in public place such as a bar (though people are being told to stay home) waiting to pick up food? Maybe they are delivering supplies to the establishment. Could someone have been hired to fix a broken pipe? A person doing a good deed could potentially be cyber-shamed because someone was quick to make a rash judgment, thinking they were saving the world.

This was actually posted on a comment section of a recent article:

I will show up and video them and post it online and shame them and destroy their reputations forever. The internet never forgives and the internet never forgets.

Like people who need to buy larger quantities at stores, let’s be slow to judge and take time to consider before we use our keypads as weapons.

Begin NextDoor

Social distancing can also bring out kindness. This was posted on our local NextDoor app. Instead of finding ways to hurt or harm others, find ways to help them during these uncertain times.

Original copy in Psychology Today.

posted by on Civility, Kindness Counts

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National Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17th but do we need a day to remind us to be nice to each other? Being kind starts with us and should be everyday.

Random Acts of Kindness Day is great time to emphasize the importance of humanity towards each other. At the same time, it’s a bit sad that we have to remind people to simply be nice to one another.

In my book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate we recognize that although we are living in a time of incivility both offline and especially online, it’s important to give you resources that are making a positive impact on communities all over the globe.

The Ripple Kindness Project

Founder Lisa Currie developed this Australian-based curriculum for the very youngest of students in elementary schools. “From what I could see, traditional antibullying programs were very negative and short-lived and really didn’t leave kids with any resources for improving their thoughts, feelings, or behavior,” she says. “Our aim is to infuse children with goodness by teaching them about their emotions, having them participate in acts of kindness, and experiencing the good feelings that are produced when they do good for others. When children learn to be givers, their whole world can change.”

Here are some of Ripple Kindness’s suggested activities to
get you started:

• Give blood.
• Leave a chocolate for the cashier.
• Bake a cake for someone.
• Feed an expired parking meter.
• Pay for someone’s meal.
• Give a compliment.
• Listen to and play with children.
• Clean someone’s home.
• Clean someone’s car.
• Buy coffee for the person behind you.
• Visit someone in a nursing home.
• Take some food or clothing to a homeless person.
• Leave a note in a lunch box.
• Don’t charge someone for some work you do for them.
• Become an organ donor.
• Ask an elderly neighbor if she needs any assistance
around her home.
• Hand make cheer-up
cards and deliver them to a hospital
for patients.
• Let someone go in front of you at a checkout.
• Babysit for someone.
• If you’re an employer, allow your staff to leave an hour
early one day.

#NiceItForward

“Who is the most awesome person today?” asks the Facebook page “Greenwich Compliments.” And every day, it answers, peppering those who live in this posh Connecticut town with a daily hip-hip-hooray for their beautiful voice, sense of style, or willingness to lend a hand.

The idea was sparked after a 2013 suicide of a bullied teen on his first day of his sophomore year shook the entire community. Looking for a way to turn things around, the Facebook page solicits compliments about Greenwich residents, receiving up to thirty submissions daily. 

“It only takes a few seconds, but by submitting, you are making a conscious decision to make someone else’s day better,” says the woman behind the site, a Greenwich High School graduate who chooses to remain anonymous. 

“People ask if I am a police officer or a teacher. I am neither. I am just a person who grew up in Greenwich and who knows how tough life can be sometimes and who knows how awesome it is to receive a compliment and how rewarding it is to give one.”

“Privacy and anonymity are very frequently used negatively on the Internet, unfortunately,” she explains. “I like to think that Greenwich Compliments is different.”

These types of #NiceItForward accounts have popped up across the nation, some created by students themselves and others by adults. One Twitter account, @OsseoNiceThings, was created in 2012 by Kevin Curwick, then a popular high school senior at Minnesota’s Osseo High School, who began anonymously tweeting shout-outs to his classmates.

The media attention sparked similar accounts all over the state and beyond, such as @ERHSnicewords, created by a student at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota, and titled “The End to Bullying,” which now has more than forty thousand followers.

Down in Charlotte, North Carolina, one father of two had had enough with comments on Twitter bashing a sports media star he follows, so he decided to create the moniker Supportive Guy and put positivity out there. “I wondered what the counterpoint of this kind of online behavior would be,” he explains. “And I created the account [@SupportiveDude] that moment on a whim.”

Since then, he has grown his following to more than fifteen hundred fans, tweeting kind remarks, and has even started the SupportiveGuy minute-long podcast.

All I’m trying to do is give people a safe haven and an online friend they can always tweet and get a response [from], maybe even a laugh. And maybe, people can see that you can get attention online without being negative. The reality is that you have a right to be on social media whenever you want to, without [the] risk of being verbally attacked.”

For more of these inspiring stories, organizations and people making a difference, order Shame Nation book today from your favorite bookstore.

Helping make kindness trend starts with you.

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Depression, Online harassment, Parenting, Teen Depression, Teen Help

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According to new research, cyberbullying can worsen symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young people.

Photo courtesy: Keenan Constance (Pexels)

It’s not only about online bullying and harassment, social media use and screen time can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety among teens and adolescents.

Sticks and stones may break your bones – but words, they can last wound you for a long-time.

Especially when cruel comments, mean memes or even distorted images go viral, a young person isn’t emotionally prepared for the ramifications of how this can affect their mental health.

Teens, depression and cyberbullying

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine study examined adolescent psychiatric inpatients ages 13 to 17 and their prevalence of cyberbullying and related it to social media usage, current levels of symptoms and histories of adverse early life experience.

“Cyberbullying is possibly more pernicious than other forms of bullying because of its reach,” said Phillip Harvey, the study co-author, in a university news release. “The bullying can be viral and persistent. To really be bullying, it has to be personal — a directly negative comment attempting to make the person feel bad.”

The study also uncovered other facts about cyberbullying:

  • Time spent online is not a determining factor in who is cyberbullied.
  • People from all economic and ethnic backgrounds are vulnerable.
  • Those who have previously been bullied are at a higher risk of being bullied again.

As we read more about online harassment climbing and teen sadness on the rise, we have to note in 2019 a University of Buffalo study revealed that teens are suffering sleep disruption patterns – due to cyberbullying and social media usage. This is causing anger, persistent irritability, as well as anxiety in young people.

3 Ways to help your teen reduce cyberbullying

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize if your teen is struggling online, there are reasons they don’t want to tell someone (especially a parent).

  1. Fear of consequences.
  2. Humiliation and embarrass.
  3. Fear of making it worse.

Being proactive starts offline with regular chats about their online life. It’s imperative your teen (or tween) understands that online bullying is unacceptable. They also need to know that, sadly, it is part of the digital world.

  1. Flag, block and report. For every social platform your child signs up for (including text messages), be sure they know the features to report abusive content. Also take the time to read the terms of service as it pertains to harassment and abuse. It will give them a better understanding of what constitutes cyberbullying and hate speech.
  2. Critical thinking. The importance of their online reputation and how it will impact their future from college admission to potential jobs. Help them think through what they are about to post or text. It’s more about pause — than think. Yes, think about it, but literally stop (pause) before you hit that send. What’s going to be the long-term consequences of that comment, image or meme? If you are forwarding something – be sure it’s a truthful comment or post. We have seen people suffer with tweets and posts that have come back to haunt them.
  3. Encourage your teen to socialize more in person with their friends. Did you know that according to a Screen Education survey, 69% of teens prefer to be with their peers in-real-life rather than online? This same survey shared that 26% of teens wished parents would impose screen time limits. Help your teen curb their device time with these tips.

Remember, socializing in real-life helps us develop empathy for others….. isn’t that what the goal is?

posted by on Cyberbullying, Internet Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Sexting, Uncategorized

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In an age where sending nudes has become normalized, we must educate young people on how to handle sexual content; sexting.

A JAMA Pediatrics study showed that 1 in 4 teens say they’re sexting—witness the sexting scandals that have popped up in small towns across America, from Duxbury, Massachusetts, to Cañon City, Colorado. The activity is also more common as young people get older, the study authors report.

Almost on a weekly basis we read headlines of adults being caught sexting minors or inappropriately, causing them to land in legal ramifications, not to mention losing their jobs. This is a perfect example that anyone (everyone) needs to be educated on using their devices safely when it pertains to sexual content.

Sexting is always about sex

When writing Shame Nation book, we interviewed a teenager that was involved in the sexting scandal in Duxbury, MA. Shockingly she said that sending nudes was common among girls.

“Girls were happy that their pictures were put there,” said Ginny (name changed for privacy. “It made them feel like all the boys loved them.”

Although there were some young people that were embarrassed and upset, when you talk to the girls directly, you find that what they dreaded most was not the reality that their naked bodies were circulating online, but the news getting out to the adults. “I don’t think the girls were all that embarrassed,” Ginny says. “They just were afraid of getting in trouble and sent to the police station with their parents.”

Safely handling sexual content

Hopefully you talk to your teen or tween (yes, tween) offline about online safety which probably includes how to handle inappropriate content when they receive it. Have you considered talking to them straight forward about handling sexual content – sexting – safely?

Cyberbullying Research Center founders, Drs. Hinduja and Patchin, understand, teens sexting is a problem, so “It is Time to Teach Safe Sexting.”

Hinduja and Patchin do want youth to understand that those who sext open themselves up to possible significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges. But they also want youth who are going to do it anyway to exercise wisdom and discretion to prevent avoidable fallout.

“This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex,” said Hinduja. “It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.”

Strategies for Safe Sexting

1. If someone sends you a sext, do not send it to—or show—anyone else. This could be considered nonconsensual sharing of pornography, and there are laws prohibiting it and which outline serious penalties (especially if the image portrays a minor).

2. If you send someone a sext, make sure you know and fully trust them. “Catfishing“— where someone sets up a fictitious profile or pretends to be someone else to lure you into a fraudulent romantic relationship (and, often, to send sexts)—happens more often than you think. You can, of course, never really know if they will share it with others or post it online, but do not send photos or video to people you do not know well.

3. Do not send images to someone who you are not certain would like to see it (make sure you receive textual consent that they are interested). Sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.

4. Consider boudoir pictures. Boudoir is a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts. They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.

5. Never include your face. Of course, this is so that images are not immediately identifiable as yours but also because certain social media sites have sophisticated facial recognition algorithms that automatically tag you in any pictures you would want to stay private.

6. Make sure the images do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. In addition, remove all jewelry before sharing. Also, consider your surroundings. Bedroom pictures could, for example, include wall art or furniture that others recognize.

7. Turn your device’s location services off for all of your social media apps, make sure your photos are not automatically tagged with your location or username, and delete any meta-data digitally attached to the image.

8. If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible. Having digital evidence (such as screenshots of text messages) of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.

9. Use apps that provide the capability for sent images to be automatically and securely deleted after a certain amount of time. You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified, but using specialized apps can decrease the chance of distribution.

10. Be sure to promptly delete any explicit photos or videos from your device. This applies to images you take of yourself and images received from someone else. Having images stored on your device increases the likelihood that someone—a parent, the police, a hacker—will find them. Possessing nude images of minors may have criminal implications. In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself.

posted by on Cybersafety, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Online harassment, Online Privacy, Online reputation, Online Safety, Online Security, Sexting

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Study: Kids as young as 10 are being exposed to sexting.

When to give your child a cellphone has been a big question for years. There really isn’t any right answer, as it really depends on your child’s level of maturity and responsibility. What we do know is according to a PEW Research survey, 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and almost half of them, (45 percent) say they’re online constantly.

Sexting: It could be your child

Don’t be a parent in denial when it comes to technology. Whether they are sending or receiving sexual content, talking offline to your child about online safety and security is imperative. We don’t give our teen key’s to a car without teaching them to drive one – let’s not hand them a smartphone without the same precautions.

By the age of 10, nearly 15 percent of children who own a smartphone will be exposed to sexting according to a recent report titled Sexting and Minors. As you child reaches 13 years old, the statistics go up, with over 36 percent now experiencing sexting.

Sexting and Minors report also shared that sexting was mostly mutual. Between the ages of 10 and 17, nearly 60 percent of all sexting involves interactions where both parties were involved. Although request for sexual pictures or videos reach their height in mid-adolescence, 24 percent of children that own smartphones also take part in these discussions.

Girls verses boys

First we should treat boys and girls equally on this topic, since the risks and consequences can be the same.  However by the age of 8, over 15 percent of girls who smartphones were exposed to sexting in some fashion. Boys’ sexting peaks at age 14, while girls’ sexting remains high consistently through their teenage years according to this latest report.

Being a proactive parent

Most people know offline conversations are key to online safety, but they are not always easy to get started.

Why do kids send nudes?

Reality is, they believe this is normal and everyone is doing it! What they don’t understand is the risks or real-life consequences that can be attached to it. This is where your offline chats are needed to help them realize the long-term costs:

Legal ramifications depending on where you live.

-Online reputation that can cost them their future college admissions or potential employment.

-Emotional distress that can have long-lasting mental health issues into adulthood from humiliation or embarrassment.

In a recent Parentology article, founder of the Institute of Responsible Cellphone Communication (IROC2), Richard Guerry shared his thoughts about young people when they share without thinking;

“At some point, should they wish to go to college, get a job, join politics or whatever their future holds – these [now] kids will be interacting with many people who don’t see sending nudes as normal.”

The ‘sext’ talk

It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their children with the knowledge to make good choices about how to use all forms of technology and social media. But how can parents approach “sext education”?

• Start talking: When your kids hear news of sext crime cases or blunders online (especially when they involve adults too) initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults.

• Just do it: You may not get a perfect time to break the ice, but don’t wait for an incident to happen. Be proactive and use the recent Sexting and Minors report to open the lines of communication.

• Make it real: Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.

• Address peer pressure: Teach your kids to be self-confident and take pride in their individuality – but more importantly – social media doesn’t define them. ‘Am I pretty enough?’ is a burning question for many young girls today. It takes just a few keystrokes to help them feel good about themselves — or exponentially worse. Acknowledge that social pressure to participate in sexting can be strong. But remind kids that public humiliation stemming from it can be a million times worse.

• Give them control: If kids receive unwanted sexually-charged messages or pictures, they should know what to do next: Be the solution. They should tell you or another trusted adult, and never forward or share those messages with friends.

Order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, helping teens choose kindness in a world of incivility. This book is one you can read and discuss together promoting online safety and making better digital decisions.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Kindness Counts, Online education, Online Safety, Online Shaming, Oversharing, Parenting, Parenting books, Parenting tips, Reputation Management, Uncategorized

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Why is the tech talk is more difficult than the sex talk?

Your ongoing offline conversations are what helps keep your teen in-check online. It’s important that you don’t loose your cool and keep those lines of communication open, many of us realize this isn’t always easy.

“Your teen may always be an app ahead of you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom whispering in their head as their struggling with difficult online challenges.”

Remember when parents cringed at the thought of the sex talk? Reality is – they still aren’t comfortable with it, but the fact is, kids are probably finding more out about sex from their devices before the parents can even have that one big discussion.

There shouldn’t be a debate, both the tech and sex chat are imperative to all kids today. The major difference is that the tech conversation needs to be ongoing.

Digital civility starts offline

The majority of parents (93%) believe they discuss responsible online behavior with their teen, while a new report was just released contradicts this. Sixty percent of teens say they rarely or never have had discussions with their parents about online behavior.

” Parents who aren’t having conversations with their kids about appropriate online behavior shared assumptions that their kids already know what they’re doing or don’t need such conversations for a multitude of reasons (limited access to internet, no concerns being voiced, etc.). “ – Survey

For most of us adults, we know never to assume, especially when it pertains to our children. The survey continues:

At the same time, parents are convinced their kids would turn to them for help if something bad, like online bullying, happens. Teens, on the other hand, are more likely to report their online bullying concerns to the platform or speak to another adult. ” -Survey

Cyberbullying

Digital Civility Survey revealed that although most parents (91%) believe their kids are likely to come to them if they are being bullied or harassed online, the report said that teens are more teens are more likely to report such issues to the platform where they occurred (53%) or tell another adult (33%) than talk to their parents (26%). When asked to share advice with their younger peers, teens recommend reporting bad behavior, blocking strangers, or telling someone who can help such.

Tech talk, 5 ways to stay engaged

Did you know that 58% of teens say their parents have been the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate online behavior. So it’s not only about what you say, but it’s what you do that matters.

  1. Shoulder to shoulder. Never miss an opportunity if you are side by side to chat with your teen about their online life, especially if you saw questionable behavior. Usually when you are riding the car or sitting watching a sports game – you tend to be more relaxed. Casually spark a conversation about something you may have seen on their social feed.
  2. Be interested. Does your teen assume you trust them online, or are you engaged with them about digital behavior? Get involved! When you see those headlines of students losing college scholarships or admissions due to inappropriate behavior – talk about it. These are great opportunities to open dialogue.
  3. Cyber-critique, offline. Another way to help your teen to better understand responsible digital citizenship is setting time aside to go online together. Review posts, comments, memes, threads of your friends, family or even acquaintances. Are you noticing someone is constantly oversharing? Maybe your friend made a snarky comment or forwarded a cruel meme. Remind your teen that online translates differently offline – and there is a very fine line between clever and cruel.
  4. Online reputation. It’s everything today! Your digital landscape is an extension of your online behavior which is a reflection of your character. More and more studies reveal that it’s not only about the content you post, but how you treat others online. From college admission offices to potential employers to even love interests – have no doubt, your online behavior will be judged by someone that matters to you. Remind your teen, what goes online today (can and will) come back to haunt them later. There’s no rewind online.
  5. Walk the talk. Have you reviewed the digital you lately? Make it a habit to go through your own social media threads to be sure you haven’t crossed the line of inappropriate behavior. It’s too often the headlines of adults acting badly are popping up on a weekly basis. On the same note, be sure you’re also reaching out to those that need a cyber-hug or smile. Leading by example doesn’t only mean to be sure your being a respectful on your threads – it also means you’re reaching out to people in need. Being an upstander.

Never doubt, you are your child’s greatest influence online and offline.

Want to have a educational conversation about the do’s and don’ts of online behavior? Pick up my latest book, Shame Nation: Helping Teens Choose Kindness In An Age of Trolling and Cruelty from Amazon or your favorite bookstore. There are examples of how real people made cyber-blunders – how to recover and survive online hate and more. This is a book for both parents and teens. Order today.

Order on Amazon today.