posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Internet Safety

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CyberbullyingTeensIn order to better understand what the consequences should be, first a parent should fully understand what cyberbullying is:

The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

In a recent survey by Motts Children’s Hospital, it revealed that parents were conflicted about how to label and punish cyberbullying.

In response to hypothetical situations at their teens’ schools, parents vary in whether they label certain actions as cyberbullying:

  • Social media campaign to elect a certain student for homecoming court, as mean joke – 63% say definitely cyberbullying
  • Sharing a photo altered to make a classmate appear fatter – 45% say definitely cyberbullying
  • Posting online rumors that a student was caught cheating on a test – 43% say definitely cyberbullying
  • Posting online rumors that a student had sex at school – 65% say definitely cyberbullying

Between 30% and 50% of parents are unsure whether these actions are cyberbullying.

Where the conflict comes in is with the punishment.  Parents recommended the most severe punishment for posting online rumors about students having sex in school, for which 1 in 5 parents would refer the students to law enforcement.  In my opinion – depending on the circumstances – this may be a bit harsh.  Most schools have teen-courts now.

CyberbullyingOnCampusWhen compared to parents being less concerned that an online rumor is being spread about a student cheating – which could be more serious for their academic future (college admission), they were less likely to refer them to law enforcement.

Parents are concerned about cyberbullying, but it seems they have mixed opinions on what constitutes online abuse and what the consequences should be.

Less than half of the parents surveyed said that sharing an altered photo to make a classmate appear fatter or posting online rumors that a student was cheating was definitely cyberbullying. Although it may appear to be cyberbullying, it could also be described has a mean digital prank – which is just as bad – and should be punished the same. However it’s a clear insight that our society is quick to label when they are not fully informed on the issue.

This survey reflects the challenges that schools face in developing clear policies around cyberbullying.

We have too many people over-using the word bullying and now cyberbullying. When in reality it might a digital prank, online joke, or otherwise — but make no mistake – it is all virtual shaming – which leads to someone being emotionally harmed and hurt for a very long time. Digital cruelty by any definition is wrong.

What are the consequences? It seems we are all still trying to figure that out. It is likely it depends on the situation.MottsSurvey

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting

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vodaphonesurveyIn a recent survey released by Vodafone, 43% of teens believe that cyberbullying is a bigger problem than drug abuse.

So when we hear phrases such as, death by humiliation, it’s not a joke.

According to this latest research:

  • 41% of teens said cyberbullying made them feel sad, helpless and depressed
  • 26% felt completely alone
  • 18% experienced suicidal thoughts
  • 21% stay home from school due to cyberbullying
  • 38% don’t tell their parents they are being harassed online

Not telling their parents or an adult is an issue that has concerned experts and advocates for a long time. The reasons why kids don’t tell can range from fear of having their life-line removed (being shut-down from the Internet), to being ashamed of what is happening online – to retaliation from the bully (being called a snitch by friends). This is why offline parenting is so crucial to online life.

TeensOnline555Research has shown that friend to friend support is one of the successful ways of preventing and addressing cyberbullying.

October is Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month. Although we take this month to focus on this topic, including cyberbullying, it’s an issue we need to discuss on a regular basis with our children as well as learning ourselves how to combat cruelty online.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that digital harassment is limited to kids. On the contrary, according to PEW Research 73% of adults have witnessed online abuse, while 40% have been victims.

This is particularly disturbing because as an adult or especially as a parent, we should know better.

Everyone needs a friend no matter what age you are. You also have to be an example to your teens and tweens online – use your keystrokes for kindness. Stop before you comment rudely on someone’s post or publish a picture that may not be that flattering to someone. Especially pause for 24 hours before sending a sensitive email.

If someone is having a bad day, or recently lost a loved one — take a moment to send them a cyber-hug. It can make all the difference in the world. Social media is about connecting, networking, and most of all — reaching out to each other when we need each other most. Don’t just be there for the good times — give us some virtual strength during the difficult ones too.

It’s not about a thumbs down, it’s about a wrap-around….. reach-out those keystrokes for kindness and find an emoji that says – hey, I got your back.  Isn’t that what friends are for?

#BeStrong announces new emoji’s to help send cyber-support to those that are being digitally abused online.

BeStrong

posted by on Adult Cyberbullying, Civility, Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Facebook, Facebook safety, Social media, Social Networking

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LovetoLikeFB2We officially live in a generation Facebook society. No matter what age you are, from 13 (and I dare say younger) to 80 (and even older) everyone loves to LIKE Facebook.

You may be watching the news on television, listening to a talk show on the radio or even walking into a store – and you will hear or see an ad to LIKE them on Facebook.

It’s a Facebook generation. 

We will hear that teens are leaving Facebook. It may not be their number one platform, but they are certainly still there. We have to remember, it is the grownups number one social media platform according to the latest studies by PEW Research.

Facebook has so many benefits. From connecting old friends to meeting new ones. It keeps families connected that may live far apart, or even if they are across the street! It’s a great place to form support groups of common issues and create events that people of the same interests can join.

Social media has a way of making you feel special on your birthday, lifting you up when you are feeling down, and giving you support if you are heading out to a challenging day.

There has been times when I have seen posts and I would think, “I wish there was a dislike button” – since no one feels comfortable “LIKE-ng” tragedy. Or if you really think about it – when you lose a loved one, you get  a LIKE, does that mean they are happy you lost that person?  Of course not….

However now that Facebook has announced they are working on the ‘Dislike‘ button, red flags are flying.

When I discuss disliking an article posted, it’s simply that – an article. Usually someone would post a sad news article of maybe a youth taking their life or how cyber-criminals have found a new way to scam the elderly – it doesn’t feel right “LIKE-ng” these posts, but I want to acknowledge to the person that posted it that I read it.

I usually comment too – which obviously is the best alternative to LIKE-ng these types of articles.

However with the latest plans for the DISLIKE button many advocates and experts are worried about how teens will handle this type of emotion.  My concern is not only for the teens, but adults too.

It’s obvious, the ‘dislike’ button will most likely provoke online bullying especially among youth. We know they can live and die for the number of “LIKEs” they are receiving – we can only imagine how their self-esteem will be deflated when the ‘dislike’ button becomes engaged – or enraged.

Again, grownups can be mean, and they also have feelings too.

Dislike2Digital shaming is not a fad, it’s a trend today. When (if) this dislike button is implemented, it will become another tool for teens and adults to use. They both need reminders to be properly educated on digital citizenship, and the first rule of thumb is – being kind online (as you would be offline).

According to the most recent PEW Study, 73% of adults have witnessed online abuse, while 40% have been victims of cyber-abuse. On Facebook, this was witnessed firsthand when a parent formed a group to intentional bash (what she considered) ugly toddlers.

We can all preach about online abuse until the cows come home – we don’t need a ‘dislike’ button to remind us that ugliness exists online.

October is Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month. Let’s try to make a conscience effort to discuss, on a regular basis, the basics of online safety, cyberbullying and kindness.

Let’s remember, cyberbullying isn’t only about kids – we must include grownups too.

Keep it simple, but constant.

Safety: Never share passwords. (Ever – except with your parents). If you’re a parent – leave it in your living trust – you never know!

Sharing: Pause. Before you are about to share a post, photo, send an email or comment – literally ‘pause’ before hitting send. If it’s something sensitive, wait 24 hours.

Cyberbullying: Tell a parent or adult immediately. Parents, understand the number one reason kids/teens don’t tell a parent is fear they will lose their life-line. That is their Internet. Re-assure them you are there for them, it’s not their fault.  Grownups, never-ever engage. Don’t respond. Save evidence. Block. Report.

Kindness: Keep in mind, there is a human on the other-side of the screen when you do hit send. Be sure it’s someone you wouldn’t mind receiving. Every keystroke matters.

As with these topics, there is much more, however this gets the communication flowing. Ask your kids what new apps they have, learn about them, show them what you have learned too. Do you need help on your tablet or cell phone? Who better to show you than your child. You can learn a lot from them – and again, it opens up your dialogue.

What is most important is helping them keep their digital lives on track with their offline life. Once the “DISLIKE” button comes into play, we want to be sure that your child is emotionally strong enough to know it is only a button and has no real sense of value on their real life.

Your offline parenting skills need to start now to prepare your child to understand that online sometimes is not always the nicest place.

Learn from one of the best. Diana Graber, a Digital Citizenship teacher in California and co-founder of Cyberwise, recently wrote an excellent article about your choices for preparing yourself for the ‘dislike’ button of Facebook.

Remember, being a cyber-role-model for others is always a priority!

 

posted by on #iCANHELP, AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Digital Parenting, Distracted driving, Parenting Blogs

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Be a positive role model to your friends.

Be a positive role model to your friends.

I have written several articles on becoming a Cyber-Mentor, creating cyber-shields  and simply being there for someone when they are struggling – online or offline. Peer-to-peer mentoring is being a positive influence on them and being there when they need you.

We have also read the studies that say that parents are the leading influence for their teens.  Although they don’t like admitting it through their trying times, parents need to understand, they are the role models for their children.

It’s no different with teens and their BFF’s! Take the time to #Tag5toSave5.

What if the next few seconds you spend on social media could save a life? New research from AT&T released today shows how we can influence our closest contacts. And tagging these people on social may be the perfect way to get their attention. That’s why today, AT&T launched the #Tag5toSave5 social campaign.

The new AT&T research shows that while many of us have hundreds of smartphone contacts, 2-in-3 people have almost all or most of their smartphone communications with just 5 people. The research also showed that people and their “top 5” have a lot of influence over each other:

  • More than 8-in-10 said they would likely stop or reduce their smartphone use while driving if one or more of their “top 5” contacts asked them to;
  • More than 7-in-10 said they would likely download an app to reduce their smartphone use behind the wheel if one or more of their “top 5” asked;
  • Nearly 85% of people would be likely to stop sending smartphone communications to their “top 5” when they know they’re driving … if only their “top 5” would ask!

Earlier this year AT&T reported that nearly 4-in-10 use social media when they’re driving. AT&T is asking you to tag your “top 5,” whether it’s a best friend or co-worker, in a social post encouraging them to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone.

Remember:  No post, glance, email, search or text is worth a life … It Can Wait.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Civility, Digital citizenship, Digital Distractions, Digital Life, Digital Parenting

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Isn't it time to be 'Hands-Free' for your family?

Isn’t it time to be ‘Hands-Free’ for your family?

With every beep, ding, buzz and fancy ringtone there is out there – silence is the most precious one that people are in need of.

We live in a society where it’s not only about our teens and youth that have their smartphones sewn into the palm of their hands – so do their parents.

A question I frequently ask to my audiences is, “What is the very first thing you do when you wake up? Go to the bathroom? Brush your teeth?  Or check your cell phone for messages, emails, texts – etc….” I think you all know the answer to that one.

Digital distractions have literally taken over the majority of many peoples lives. Again, we have to stop labeling this as a teen thing because adults are equally as guilty. Go to a restaurant, mall, airport, or any other area — including walking on a sidewalk, and chances are people are glancing at their devices – if not texting and walking.

Order today! Get your life back!

Order today! Get your life back!

New York Times best selling author, Rachel Macy Stafford just released her latest book, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving Life.

No is telling you to get rid of your gadgets, it’s about finding that digital balance in your life.  Small adjustments — can change you a lot!

Washington Post spoke with Rachel about her latest book.  In the article she said:

“When I was starting to scale back on all the commitments and distractions in my life, I realized there was internal distraction that was really preventing me from living in the moment and finding joy.” See? Less = more.

In a recent interview she gave to Huffington Post, Rachel says:

We are so tied to our devices and our need to be “busy” that we have forgotten how to be still, how to be alone with our thoughts, what to do if our hands are empty. But the hands-free approach to life provides practical, doable ways to overcome it.

It’s the simple facts of life, there is a life outside of your digital connections.  It’s your real-life.  Until you take the time to seriously want to be part of it, you will be missing so many important moments that you can never get back.

One thing about the teens and kids, they aren’t mature enough to really grasp that life is short. These moments in time you don’t get back. Adults should know better and be the role models for our youth.

Rachel’s book is such a great reminder for all adults and teens alike.

Isn’t it time you get present in your life?

Just a thought, holidays are around the corner, what a perfect gift for someone you feel may need it…. a gentle reminder never hurts.  Life is short.

Sunday, September 13, 2015 is Grandparents Day.  If you are blessed to still have them, reach out to them personally.  Don’t text, email or voicemail – call them or visit them (if you can). Be present, literally. It matters.

Visit Rachel’s website, Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Facebook, Online Life, Social media, Social Networking

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We know we live in a digitally connected society, with 92% of adults attached to their cell phones, 52% of them are fully engaged in social media (Facebook being their favorite by 71%) and now research has revealed that it’s not only women (which has been leading the social media force) men have arrived!

In the latest survey from PEW Research, men are catching up with women on social media.

In 2010 53% of men compared to 68% of women were engaged on social media.

Today in 2015, 73% of men compared to 80% of women!  The gap has narrowed quite significantly.

Although the overall percentage of men and women who report using social media is now comparable, there are still some gender differences on specific platforms. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram have a larger female user base, while online discussion forums like Reddit, Digg or Slashdot attract a greater share of male users.

It’s interesting that men and women are both engaging in social media, maybe in different platforms however spending time connected.

Overall this analysis reported that men were more engaging in forums rather than Facebook or Instagram platforms.  Personally I do see more women than men posting on Facebook and especially Pinterest (which I still haven’t figured out). This isn’t to say men aren’t on Facebook, since I also see many. Especially men that are advocates in something they are passionate about, they will engage in Facebook groups.  Huh, interesting, I just said – they mostly engage in groups, which are like online forums.

On the other hand, online discussion forums are especially popular among men. One-in-five male internet users say they read or comment on sites such as Reddit, Digg or Slashdot, compared with only 11% of online women.

PEWGenderSTudy
My hope is that these men and women are also parents that are now engaging on social media and learning about their children’s new playgrounds.  We know the moms are there – and with the increase of men, it’s a good sign that they are now on board with becoming involved too.

Forums can be a place to find out more about parenting issues, asking questions and getting support if you are going through rough patch in life.

It’s great that men (possibly dad’s) are reaching out to others and possibly helping others too. We need to created a cyber-society of compassion and support for each other whether it is on Facebook, Tumblr or any forum. No matter what gender you are – chances are very good you have something you can offer another person.  A simple kind word or maybe a referral or recommendation to a local restaurant!  Civility and good manners start at home.

Most importantly, you are a digital role model for your child. Mind your cyber-etiquette in any social media platform you are mingling in.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, mobile phone safety

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Parents must lead by example.

Parents must lead by example.

We often read reports and studies about youth and their constant connection to the Internet or especially their cellphones.

PEW Research recently released Americans’ Views on Mobile Phone Etiquette and it revealed some very interesting statistics for grownups.

  • 92% of U.S. adults have a cellphone, and 90% of them say they have it with them frequently
  • 31% of them say they never turn-off their phone, while 45% say they rarely turn it off.

These stats alone are enough to start a conversation about leading by example for parents. We expect our children, especially teens to find a healthy digital balance in life, yet adults seem to be having the same struggle with unplugging – or should we say – un-stitching the cellphone from their physical body.  Whether it’s the palm of their hand or a fancy carrying case, it is never far from their fingers.

When I speak around the country on social media and my story of digital cruelty, I often ask the audience….. “What’s the very first thing you do when you wake-up? Brush your teeth? Use the bathroom? Or check your cellphone for text messages, emails or voice mails?” I think we all know the answer the audience gives. Yes, technology rules at all ages.

Benefit of the doubt:  More families are cutting back costs and removing a landline and only using mobile lines, however like with landlines, you can put that mobile phone on a charger and walk away.

Most adults can agree that using cellphones can be distracting in a social settings, yet a full 89% admitted to using their smartphone during a social gathering while 86% said they witnessed others using their gadgets during an event.

I go back to role modeling for our youth.  We are constantly discussing and reading about how rude and disrespectful our younger generation is today, however when we read about statististics of 89% and 86% — grownups really need to start thinking about their own social behavior.

PEW89MobileStudy
Let’s review this graph.

How many times have you asked your child or teen to put their cellphone down while you are talking to them or during mealtime and especially at bedtime? They just want to send that one last text message – or finish up a photo – maybe downloading an app.

In reality, it seems that parents and youth have a lot in common when it comes to their mobile phones.  They enjoy them.  Let’s face it – we have become a society that relies on our smartphone for many valuable resources – from directions (GPS), ratings for  restaurants, apps for games and more, movies, books, Amazon, music and so much more.  I haven’t even touched on social media which connects us to our friends and family instantly.

Read the entire study here.

PS:  I love my smartphone and couldn’t live without it now! I am fairly a newbie too, it was only about 3 years ago that I graduated to one. I will admit, it’s hard putting them down – and turning them off. It’s a habit you need to do, which I have learned. I also learned not to give out my cell number frequently anymore. It really cut down on texts and calls. Keep in mind, your phone can be put in the silence mode for a reason, use it when you are with others. Vibrate is still distracting.

posted by on Cybersafety, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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TeensDigitalFrom the time they are babies, your kids see you checking Facebook from your phone, posting photos to Instagram on your tablet and finding great recipes on Pinterest from your laptop. It’s only natural that they want to be part of the great online world of social media. But to make sure your kids are properly prepared for the digital world, check out the following tips:

Start Talking to Them Early

You don’t have to wait until your kids are opinionated tweens to discuss what to do and not to do online. OnGuardOnline.gov advises that as soon as your kiddo starts to use a tablet or computer to play games or text grandma is the time to start talking about online safety and appropriate behavior.

Communicate Your Values Often

Online safety is not a topic that can be covered in a quick chat over ice cream cones. Instead, plan on talking about your rules, values and concerns over the course of many talks. Let your kids know that you will listen to them and their feelings about online activity without judging them. Look for opportunities to bring up the topic naturally, too. For example, if you are watching a show together where one of the young characters opens up a social media account without her parents knowing, you can talk to your children about the character’s online safety.

Over the course of several conversations, discuss important and heavy issues, including inappropriate contact, cyber bullying and identity theft. Explain that the sad reality is that not everyone online is nice. You also should mention what is appropriate for them to see and do online as well as what they need to avoid. For instance, if they are watching a video that contains foul language, they should exit out of it immediately.

Teach Them About Malware

In addition to talking about unsavory people who lurk online, it’s important to go over digital attackers, such as viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan Horses. LifeLock explains that a great way to combat malware is by installing antivirus software and frequently updating applications and operating system software.

Because kids are are more prone to opening attachments from unknown sources that promise a free game upgrade or funny video, you need to explain that doing so may result in a virus attacking their computer. Tell them that they should never open any attachment without asking you first and that they need to exit out of all pop-up ads. Show them what the antivirus software alerts look like, and ask them to tell you when they show up, so you can check them out together.

Discuss Appropriate Behavior

Before you let your child open his or her first social media account, have a serious talk about kind and appropriate behavior. The Guardian suggests telling your kids that if they wouldn’t do something in person, they shouldn’t do it online, such as saying something mean to an acquaintance from school. Tell your tweens that they should imagine their beloved grandma is standing right behind them watching what they are doing on social media, and if she is happy with what they are posting or watching, then it’s okay. Also, it’s important to teach your kids about the permanence of the Internet and how all posts (even if they are deleted) remain in the digital world forever.

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital citizenship

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keyboard_and_mouse-625x1000Whenever I see these headlines I want to cringe.

The fact is, it’s sad we need headlines to remind us to continue to be kind to others, to continue to discuss with our children as well as our friends and colleagues about the importance of being an upstander when you see someone being shamed online and most importantly — it’s a reminder that this digital cruelty is not going away anytime soon.

The fact is – there is a live person on the other-side of the screen. Whether it is a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet or a PC – you have the potential to destroy someone’s life with your keypad.  Yes, keystrokes (with a click of a mouse) have become a deadly weapon at all ages – and in many cases – it’s completely legal.

Just as many schools are opening in August, I read that exact headline with  a study of more than 16,000 Boston-area high school students suggests cyberbullying is on the rise.  You can read more of the details in the article, which says that girls in particular are targets for online harassment.

We now live in a society where the majority of people live their lives online.  This includes grownups too.  I am firm believer that we can’t exclude parents from the way they are behaving online as well as their lack of understanding their role in educating their kids and teens on empathy, cyberbullying awareness and online safety and security.

Cyberbullying is a concern for everyone and if you believe it can’t happen to  you, you are sorely mistaken.  No one is immune to cyber-bullets – and the worse part about cyberbullying is it can happen when you least expect it and from a person that you thought was a friend.

We can focus on cyberbullying rising or we can empower ourselves to be upstanders for not only our family, but for others we see that are struggling online.

Parents need to make time, maybe weekly to learn something new as it pertains to online safety, security and digital citizenship (this includes cyberbullying prevention and awareness).  This doesn’t replace your regular chats with your kids on cyber-life.  It can enhance it.  Some great sites to get resources from:

We turn to kids, tweens and teens who spend the majority of their time connected.  Sure I could repeat all those PEW stats, but you already know – our kids have their smartphones sewn into the palm of their hand!  This is the first thing parents need to address.

Boundaries — and this goes for parents too.  Un-stitch that phone from the palm of their hand, especially during meals and at bedtime. I shouldn’t have to mention – while driving!  The catch… that means “parents” too!

Parents have to lead by example.  It’s that simple.  (Well, not really), but it should be.

CyberMentor2So what can kids do?  Lead by example too! 

Reminding your child that someone is watching their posts, keystrokes and their comments – they are potentially someone’s mentor whether they realize it or not. It could be their younger sibling, it could be their cousin or a neighbor that looks up to them.

In a recent post for Gaggle, I wrote about being a Cyber-Mentor.  This is a role for all ages, and one that can benefit each party.  It can help reduce cyberbullying and help give your child a support online when they feel hopeless – they have a peer that understands them.

Yes, cyberbullying might be rising, but let’s start talking about how upstanders and kindnes online is growing too.  Talking is great, but let’s start doing something.

It’s more than wearing t-shirts, wristbands or even singing songs – it’s about literally reaching out online when you see that cyber-bullet strike.  It’s about sending a message of support to that person when you see that the are being humiliated or embarrassed.  It’s about publicly saying to others – “that is wrong.”  It’s about standing up against online shaming – not only talking to others about it, but doing something about it.

Parents that assume their kids would never do that – or that their kids could never be a victim of cyberbullies, please don’t be that naive.  No one is immune.  No one.

KindnessWinsDoing more than talking about it:

In conclusion:  Cyberbullying is on the rise.  We will combat it through empathy and kindness.   Parents and their children need to start engaging in more conversations and role playing about this important topic as well as other digital trends.  Turning the talk into action!

Eventually we will see headlines saying:  Upstanders on the Rise!

posted by on Cyber Safety, Internet Predators, Online activity, Parenting, Parenting Teens, Security Online, Sexual Predators, Social media, Social Networking

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If you haven’t seen the social media experiment video that has gone viral by now, it’s about time you view it and share it.

(Kudos to Colby Persin for addressing an important topic.)

Let’s take some facts.  92% of teens visit the Internet on a daily basis, as a matter of fact, 24% of them said they are go on constantly (according to PEW Research).  Parents – this is a reality check – the digital world is not going away.

Another study from PEW Research reveals that 57% of teens have made friends online and 20% have meet their new online friends offline. We can’t fault them for that, social media has been proven, even for parents to be a wealth of support and information for each other.  PEW substantiated it in their study Parents and Social Media as 79% of parents agreed they turn to social media to look for support from each other – even if they only know the person virtually.

What has to be a priority and improve, is our communication with our family offline.  

The Internet and social media is a wonderful gift, educational tool and a phenomenal way to find support when you need it.  However like with all great things, there will always be the dark-side or downside.  There will always be those that want to ruin it for others or are simply cruel and evil people.  From online trolls to Internet predators to cyber-hackers – they won’t discriminate who they harm.

Let’s discuss the video.

The parents, in my opinion, are a bit aggressive although I understand they are so upset and were scared to death.  I don’t believe in fear-based teaching – and sometimes the scared-straight tactics are only short term.  (I actually have experience with this in my other life profession).

You can show your emotion calmly, with tears of genuine concern and discuss this horrific incident with compassion and love – and immediately start your digital conversations (that they were probably sorely missing) on a regular basis.

Yes, every parent (hopefully) has that discussion about stranger danger offline and online – but how many times?  Today it is about repetition, and hopefully even role playing.  It is about have it regularly, because on a daily basis new predators and new cyber-scams are popping up!

Just as common as you ask your child how their day of school was, you need to be asking them how their day online is!  After-all – go back to that statistic…. they spend a lot of time in cyber-land!

(BTW – so do parents) and there is nothing wrong with it, but let’s be safe.

What is disturbing is when tweens and teens will lie about their age on social media.  This is something parents need to seriously discuss with their children.  In a recent McAfee study, 42% of teens create alias profiles.  This doesn’t mean all are changing their ages, however it is a high percentage changing their identity.  Be an educated parent – learn more about this.

Conversations and thoughts to consider with your teen to increase their social wisdom:

  • Never stop your daily/regular conversations about digital life.
  • Share your new finds on social media, and ask them what they have to share with you.
  • Empower your teen with the understanding it’s okay to click-out of a website or chat-room if they are feeling uncomfortable.
  • Have an understanding with your teen, that if they make new friends online, you will always be made aware if you they are taking it offline.  Build a strong bond of trust with your teenager.
  • Let your teen know that no matter what, you are there for them whenever they are in a difficult situation online.  You will never judge them.  Drop this comment regularly.  They tend to forget.
  • Remind them of sexting consequences, this is important since predators will encourage youth to send sexual content before meeting.

I want to re-post conversation starters from Common Sense and Family Dinner Project.  You never want to run out of topics to talk about!  Remember, whether you are in the car, eating a meal or watching a ball game – there is always time to find out what’s going on in your teen’s digital life.

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