posted by on Adult Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying, Digital Life, Online reputation, Online Shaming

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Dealing with Digital Disaster and Combating Cyberbullying

(Excerpt from Shame Nation book)

If your attackers are coming after you hard, it might be time for a more forceful response. Has your online reputation suffered irreparable damage? Has it gotten so bad that you are fearful for your safety? Should you consult an attorney or file a police report?

It’s certainly possible that you could be facing some of the mentally unstable people on the Internet who take trolling to the extreme. One woman, “Sarah,” first got sucked into an online flame war with one of these people years ago, when she was in grad school and brushed with an anonymous poster on Lena Chen’s Sex and the Ivy blog. “At that point, I’d never engaged with anyone online,” she recalled when I spoke to her. “I made a couple of comments. It didn’t even occur to me anyone would care; I was nobody.”

But her harasser, in retaliation, targeted her for years, creating rambling posts calling her a fat-ass, questioning her professional work, and even claiming that she had rape fantasies.

In fact, she says, this deranged stranger ultimately went after a dozen women who posted comments supporting her, trashing their reputations and getting at least one fired from her job as a teacher. “I’ve never encountered a situation quite like this one,” Sarah admits. “I was being called a fat, ugly slut who wants to be raped.

He spent eight years, on and off, trying to make me unemployable, undateable, trying to make me a target for crime—he’s accused me of having STDs, publicly claimed I was fired from jobs for sexual misconduct. That level of effort into trying to hurt someone… It is hard to understand. All I can think is this is someone deeply unhappy, and probably a sociopath. There are people out there who will think nothing of trying to hurt other people.”

“This is not trolling,” states researcher Lindsay Blackwell, in her talk titled “Trolls, Trouble, and Telling the Difference.” “This is harassment. It is violence, and it is very, very difficult to control.”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 18 percent, or nearly one in five, of Internet users surveyed were the victims of “severe” online abuse, such as stalking or physical threats.

Advising victims to get off the Internet doesn’t work either, Blackwell adds. “The Internet is real life. For many of us, it’s where we make a living, it’s where we make friends, it’s where we live our lives, it’s an extension of where we live our lives… Telling victims of online harassment to log off…[isn’t] helpful… It’s so, so important that we stop telling victims of harassment to not feed the trolls.”

Sarah’s experience has impacted her life in so many ways. When it came to dating, she would only give out her first name, then field comments from suitors who came across what was posted about her online. “I had someone tell me I shouldn’t mention it to men, [that] they would think I invited drama into my life,” she recalls.

Now an MBA student seeking employment, Sarah has needed to discuss her situation with career counselors, add explanations to her cover letters, and warn potential roommates.

She has filed police reports and consulted with two pro bono attorneys, but to date, has been unsuccessful in unmask­ing the identity of the perpetrator, leaving her understandably bitter. “You can’t sue someone if you don’t know who they are,” she explains. She hesitates, then adds flatly, “This sounds awful, [but] I would love to destroy his life in the way he’s tried to destroy mine.”

Controlling a Disaster

Reading comments online, especially twisted truths or outright lies about yourself, can be horrifying—I know this firsthand. The emotional toll that it can take on a person is enormous. Know that you don’t have to go through this alone. There are many outlets to help you through this cyber-torture.

What options are available for the average Joe, who doesn’t have an entourage, a high-powered publicist, or the star power of a celebrity to mobilize support or fund a legal battle?

To take control of a digital disaster, begin with these basic steps:
  • Document the attacks. Take screenshots of all the evidence. You might want to just push delete, delete, delete. But if things escalate, you’ll need to have some documentation. Print it out, keep it in an online folder, put it on a thumb drive, download any videos to an exter­nal hard drive—but do save it.Some even advise using a web-archiving service, such as Page Vault, which officially documents the date, time, and web address, allowing it to be legally permissible in court. This is an area where your friends and family can help you.Ask them to monitor the abusive content for you, so you don’t have to read it over and over again. “There was a point where I started to have an anxiety attack every time I thought about Googling my name; I felt like I needed to see if anything new was posted,” recalls Sarah, who had her father take over that unpleasant task. “Mitigating how much I was exposed [to] was really important.”


  • Block the offenders. Blocking functionality is available on social media platforms, as well as phone calls, texts, apps, and email. One tool offered by Twitter, under the guise of protecting your well-being, is quality filtering, which prevents you from seeing anything that a specified poster has posted about you.


    In November 2016, Twitter also expanded this mute feature to include specific words or users you choose to block.But some experts are not fans of this “ignorance is bliss” credo. Blackwell points out that if you enable this feature, there is no way to be aware of—and stop—what is being said behind your back.


  • Report the offenders. Review the website’s or platform’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Code of Conduct, to identify what actions are considered violations, then politely ask the service to remove offensive comments, in accordance with its guidelines, and to ban the violator from the platform.
    Beware—some sites, especially those that seem to foster harassment and revenge porn, have been known to thumb their noses at victims and reprint emotional takedown requests, so don’t get overwrought in your tone. Stick to boilerplate legalese.


  • Try to identify the attackers. Are you being harassed or stalked, and it’s escalating? Maybe you are fed up with the cyber-slime an anonymous user is posting about you. To identify that person’s IP address, you will need to file a crime report with law enforcement, says California Senior Officer Mike Bires. “After reviewing the facts of the case, the detectives can obtain a warrant, which can be served upon the social media platform in question, requesting all of the information relevant to the case and the suspect.”But if you don’t want to contact the authorities, there are other ways to find out who’s behind the IP, suggests security expert Theresa Payton, CEO of Fortalice Solutions and coauthor of the bookProtecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online?. “When you are in the digital world, you can feel powerless,” she says. “Consider hiring a cybersecurity company to unmask the aggressor, if the case is more serious.Unfortunately, my company has been increasingly hired to do this. It’s not a sure thing that you can unmask them, but often you can, if [you have] suspicions [about] who is harassing [you]. Everyone has a digital pattern, so watching the harasser’s patterns [may lead] you to the real-life person.”


  • Cut the criminals off. If you ever find yourself being extorted for money over explicit materials, treat it like you would any other form of blackmail, recommends ReputationDefender’s Rich Matta. “Cut off all ties with the extortionists. Block their email addresses and social accounts. Realize that a payoff is unlikely to change their behavior or resolve the issue. If videos or materials have been posted ‘privately’ along with a threat to go public, fill out the appropriate online forms to request removal from YouTube, Vimeo, Google, GoDaddy, or whichever hosts or service providers are hosting the explicit material.If appropriate, contact the authorities.”Officer Bires says, “Agencies throughout America are receiving information, tips, bulletins, and training every single day on social media and cybercrimes.” He recom­mends that if you become a victim of sextortion, report the crime to your local law enforcement. Bires continues, “ Granted, not every police department has the expertise to investigate such technical crimes, [but] these same agencies know there are law enforcement professionals who can assist them in completing an investigation.”


Order Shame Nation book – learn more about combating digital disasters, maintaining your online reputation and reclaiming civility.

posted by on Civility, Cyberbullying, Online bullying, Online Safety, Parenting Teens, Smartphone Addiction, Social media, Social Networking

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The evolution of social media and how teens and parents fit in.

Two very telling surveys were released this month that can give us insights on how both teens and parents are adapting to the world of technology.

As the new school year started, Microsoft shared a new study that was encouraging. Teens around the world are finally turning to their parents or a trusted adult for online issues.

Common Sense Media conducted a national survey to find out exactly how teens are using their phones and how they feel about social media in a report, Social Media, Social Life.

In 2012, Common Sense Media had released the original survey.

Since the first Common Sense survey, smartphone ownership among teens has more than doubled from 41 percent to 89 percent.

Although almost half of teens (47 percent) believe they are addicted to their phone, only 24 percent believe they are addicted to social media. It’s more likely they are attached to their texting since that is considered their first line of communication today. Eighty percent text on a daily basis which is up from 68 percent from the 2012 survey.

What social playground is popular now?

We know that parents still are very active on Facebook according to the latest PEW Research survey, but when it comes to the young people (Common Sense 2018 survey), it has fallen off a cliff! In the 2012 survey 68 percent of teens claimed Facebook as their go-to social platform, today it’s fallen to only 15 percent with Snapchat being their favorite at 41 percent followed by Instagram by 22 percent.

Online hate and upstanders

Incivility online overall is on the rise over the past six years. Nearly two-thirds of teens (64 percent) say they have seen raciest, sexist, homophobic or religious-based hate content on social media platforms (Common Sense survey 2018).

We frequently hear about cyberbullying, according to the Common Sense survey, 13 percent of the teens have been bullied online. The good news is 23 percent of teens have tried to help someone online when they witness digital harassment.

Civility, Safety and Interaction Online

Almost half of teens (42 percent) when faced with online issues are finally turning to their parents, while 28 percent said they sought advice from another trusted adult such as a teacher, coach or counselor according to the new Microsoft survey.

Like the Common Sense survey, Microsoft was able to compare their results to their earlier one.

It’s very impressive that from a year earlier, only 10 percent of teens would turn to their parents and today it’s increased by 32 percent. The same is true for a trusted adult. It was only 9 percent a year ago and now it’s 28 percent, a 19 percent increase.

Are parents and communities finally realizing the urgency of talking about online safety and civility? The fact that the majority of our young people’s lives evolve around both their smartphones and social media? Is it the headlines of cyberbullying or bullycide that has parents concerned?

Awareness is key – and is just as important as these lines of communication.

In addition, adults and teens across the globe say parents are by far the best placed of any group to keep young people and families safe online. Results show parents have both the greatest potential — and were deemed the most effective — at promoting online safety among young people, teens and families.

The gender factor

Online life is generally harder for girls, in the latest Microsoft survey it revealed that teen girls were likely to ask for help from parents more than boys by a small margin ( 44 percent of girls vs. 37 percent of boys).

Back to school with Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge

Take the Digital Civility Challenge – four basic tenets for life online, namely:

  • Live the “Golden Rule” and treat others as you would like to be treated by leading with empathy, compassion and kindness, and affording everyone respect and dignity both online and off.
  • Respect differences by honoring diverse perspectives and, when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully and avoid name-calling and abusive language.
  • Pause before replying to comments or posts you disagree with and refrain from posting or sending anything that could hurt someone, damage a reputation or threaten someone’s safety.
  • Stand up for yourself and others if it’s safe and prudent to do so; also, report illegal and abusive content and behavior and preserve evidence.

Take the time to review both the surveys. Being an educated parent and community member can help you help the next generation have a safer online experience.

Keep in mind, our kids will always be an app ahead of us, but they will always need your parenting wisdom.

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety, Internet Safety, Online harassment

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Cyberbullying, Online Harassment and Digital Abuse

Don’t feed the trolls.

We’ve heard this over and over again.  It is a phrase that tells us not to engage with people online that are intentionally inflicting harm and cruelty towards others.

In today’s culture of digital cruelty and online shaming, no one is immune to online harassment.  For years we have read about the research of youth and cyberbullying –  in 2017 PEW Research Center revealed that 66% of adults have witnessed online harassment and 41% have been a victim of it.  These are not small numbers considering adults should know better.

Help at all ages

Whether you are young or mature, if you’re being attacked online it can be emotionally debilitating. While you are dealing with the hurt, it’s important to preserve the evidence or ask a friend to help you.

  1. Document the attacks. Take screenshots of all the evidence. You might want to just push delete, delete, delete. But if things escalate, you’ll need to have some documentation. Print it out, keep it in an online folder, put it on a thumb drive, download any videos to an external hard drive—but do save it.
  2. Block the offenders. Blocking functionality is available on social media  platforms, as well as phone calls, texts, apps, and email. Once you block them, be sure you have a friend monitoring them for you.
  3. Report the offenders. Review the website’s or platform’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Code of Conduct, to identify what actions are considered violations, then politely ask the service to remove offensive comments, in accordance with its guidelines, and to ban the violator from the platform. Beware—some sites, especially those that seem to foster harassment and revenge porn, have been known to thumb their noses at victims and reprint emotional take down requests, so don’t get overwrought in your tone. Stick to boilerplate legalese.
  4. Try to identify the attackers. Are you being harassed or stalked, and it’s escalating? Maybe you are fed up with the cyberslime an anonymous user is posting about you. To identify that person’s IP address, you will need to file
    a crime report with law enforcement, says California Senior Officer Mike Bires.
  5. Cut the criminals off. If you ever find yourself being extorted for money over explicit materials, treat it like you would any other form of blackmail. Report it to the appropriate authorities.
Talk, talk, talk

If you are a target of cyberbullying, one of the most important things you can do is tell someone. You need to know you are never alone. There are a vast amount of resources both online and offline to help you.

As someone that experienced online shame and abuse, I know the feeling of isolation and powerlessness over the internet. It’s not that way anymore. The floodgates are now open – many, many people are now stepping up and here to help.

The fact that many children do not tell their parents  about the cyberbullying is an issue that continues to concern experts and advocates. Telling a parent is not only about reporting the bully so that steps can be taken, but it also helps preserve the child’s emotional health. We also need to be aware that the person that is the bully likely needs emotional help too.

The reason kids don’t tell their parents about online bullying may range from fear of having their lifeline removed (being shut off from the internet) and being ashamed of what is happening to retaliation from the bully or teasing by other kids. This is why offline parenting is so crucial to a child’s online life. Only parents can turn this statistic around.

Parenting tips
  • Communication is key.
  • Offline chats are imperative to online safety.
  • Go online with your child, be as interested in their cyber-life as you are in their school life.
  • Remember, short chats are better than no chats at all.
  • Your child will always be an app ahead of you, but will always need your parenting wisdom.
  • Continue to remind your kids you are there for them – but it’s also okay for them to talk to any trusted adult. If someone is being harassed online, they have to tell someone. Don’t be hurt – but grateful they are sharing it with someone.

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Bullying, Cyberbullying, Online bullying

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Upstanders: We all need to step-up

In an age of cruelty and trolling, it’s important to equip young people to stand up to online hate and cyberbullying.

We often hear about being an upstander, however do you actually know what it means to be one?

An UPSTANDER is someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When we stand up for what is right, and do our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt, we are being socially responsible.

There are no age requirements to be an upstander, anyone can participate (and should).

Why do we need upstanders?

Almost half of 1,089 11 to 25-year-olds questioned for the Safety Net report had experienced threatening or nasty social media messages, emails or texts.

Two-thirds said they would not tell their parents if they experienced something upsetting online.

It’s not only the young people

In the last 2017 PEW Research survey, 66 percent of adults witnessed online harassment, while 41 percent of us have been victims. Almost two-thirds, 67 percent of young people in this same survey, said they have experienced some form of online abuse.

There are no boundaries

From parents to teachers to doctors to celebrities to politicians — no is immune from being the target of online abuse.

When adults are the targets, but they are also the ones throwing the insults, how do untangle this web of digital hate to viewers, especially children? Aren’t the grownups supposed to be the role models? In some cases, aren’t they supposed to be people we respect?

In today’s world, your online reputation can dictate your future. Whether you’re applying to colleges or interviewing for jobs — your name will likely be put through the Google rinse cycle.

It’s not only your social media content that will be reviewed, more importantly is your online behavior. How do you interact with others in cyberspace? Your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character.

Your online behavior is an extension of your online reputation.

Never doubt you don’t a second chance to make a first impression — today that first impression is likely your digital one.

If you see someone struggling online, how can you help?

5 Ways you can be an upstander:

1. Never perpetuate hate or fake news. Don’t forward, like, or retweet distasteful comments or images.

2. Report and flag abusive, mean, hateful content to the social platform.

3. Reach out to someone that is struggling. Private message them, even if it’s only a virtual hug. Let them know you are there for them.

4. Kindness is contagious. Talk about it with your kids. Read headlines of people doing good things for other people — then get involved.

5. Lead by example not only for your children, but for your colleagues, friends, and family.

Be proactive, forward this to a friend. Everyone needs to be part of an upstander revolution.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Online harassment, Online Shaming, Social media

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Avoiding public shaming in a rise of incivility.

We’re living in a era where the majority of people are armed with smartphones and cameras are on every corner. You are no longer afforded the luxury of having a meltdown at an airport or being rude to a cashier (not that you should be), maybe you are angered by a the way someone is driving and decide to slip them your wonder finger……are your kids driving you mad or disturbed by how someone else is parenting their child? Public shaming has now become a way to handle unsettling situations.

In a culture of ‘aim and shame’ you are literally seconds away from becoming Internet infamy and making the evening news. What’s worse is the financial ruin that could follow.

Yes — we have witnessed these moments of indiscretions where people have lost their jobs.

There’s no denying how digital life has changed the way we live (and behave) today.

With all this power at our finger-tips, we have slowly witnessed the corrosion of both online and offline civility among humanity.

Using public shaming to shift our beliefs rather than having constructive conversations has become the new normal.

Many people remember the public shaming of Justine Sacco or maybe Lindsey Stone that went viral and cost both women years of online reputational damage. People from all walks of life participated in vilifying these women—the majority never meet them or knew them, however with the click of a keypad, were able to ruin their lives.

We shame to pressure outliers to conform to our norms—even if no one can agree anymore what those standards should be.

Now we are facing offline shaming that is taking a new life online. People that are now in striking distance of a smartphone or camera have become targets of viral humiliation.

Whether it was Permit Patty, BBQ Becky or Pool Patrol Paula, these are all nicknames for average people that made public spectacles of themselves forgetting there is always someone ready to aim and shame your most embarrassing moments.

Short-term gratification, long term ramification.

Alison Kettel, aka Permit Patty, although this incident also was considered a racial issue, it was also something many people that work at home fully understood. When your on a call and there’s a child yelling out your window it can be extremely disturbing.  This is not saying what Alison did was correct – by all means, she was wrong. There were so many better ways to handle this situation and she didn’t. She chose the absolute worst way and likely regrets it.

Is Alison a bad person?  Will this one oops moment define her entire life?  Let’s hope not – because none of us are perfect.

How can we avoid public shaming today? Here’s a good start:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings.
  2. Be self-aware of your actions.
  3. Anger is temporary, online is forever. If you find yourself getting steamed, walk away.
  4. Have zero expectancy of privacy — wherever you are.
  5. Treat people the way want to be treated, always.

Learn more about avoiding, preventing and overcoming online and public shaming – order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks, October 2017).

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New survey by Weber Shandwick, Civility in America 2018, revealed that the majority of us (84 percent) have faced incivility.

Who’s to blame?

According to this survey, 56 percent of those who say civility is worsening blame the Internet and social media. However the number one reason Americans point to the rise in this shame nation is the president of the United States at 58 percent.

Civility in the workplace

The positive side is that workplace, largely continues to be a safe zone for many coworkers. More than nine in 10 Americans who work with others (92 percent) describe their place of employment as very or somewhat civil, a statistic that rose since our last measurement at the end of 2016 (86 percent).

Not only does the overwhelming majority of Americans with coworkers describe
their workplace as civil, but 27 percent report this level of civility has improved compared to a few years ago. These positive indicators align with the general decline in the
number of Americans overall who report ever having experienced incivility at work.

It starts at the top

When leadership is civil, these numbers further improve. Employees who work in civil places and think their leadership is civil feel safer reporting incivility or harassment to their supervisor (48 percent) and are less likely to distrust management to handle complaints about incivility (6 percent). There is a clear need for civility to start at the top of an organization.

What can be contributing to the increase in civility in the workplace that people can learn from?

Being aware of what topics are not for discussion (or are sensitive) in a workplace environment to keep a healthy and safe climate. This is something that the online world could learn from. There’s nothing wrong with having constructive conversations, however we understand that sometimes people are not able to handle their emotions — especially when there is a screen between them, and tempers can flare through a keypad.

We’re all entitled to our opinions, however it’s how you present them that could be considered civil or inappropriate.

Who are the role models?

It’s hard to ignore the incredible levels of incivility coming from the leader of the land, as well as people that are ready to aim and shame their smartphones at civilians without any thought of the consequences of how it can impact someone’s life.

It’s time for all Americans to take back this shame nation and build a civil one. You don’t have to be a celebrity to have a voice or build a platform of kindness and compassion in your home or community.

5 ways anyone can be an upstander:

1. Never perpetuate hate or fake news. Don’t forward, like, or retweet distasteful comments or images.

2. Report and flag abusive, mean, hateful content to the social platform.

3. Reach out to someone that is struggling. Private message them, even if it’s only a virtual hug. Let them know you are there for them.

4. Kindness is contagious. Talk about it with your kids. Read headlines of people doing good things for other people — then get involved.

5. Lead by example not only for your children, but for your colleagues, friends, and family.

posted by on Bullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Online Safety, Sexting

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Is there a link between cyberbullying, sexting and drug use?

We’re living in an age where the headlines of cyberbullying and sexting are becoming common. It doesn’t mean we have to accept this as the new normal, we should be embracing these articles as conversation starters with our teen’s.

In a study conducted a few years ago by Journal of Adolescent Health, teen victims of cyberbullying (which now can also be victims of sexting), are more likely to abuse drugs. A more recent study found that youth cyberbullying is most common between friends or former friends.

Why is this disturbing?

Friends and peers are everything to today’s teenager. When someone turns against you or maybe your friend has a jealous streak, it can be brutal online. However the emotional damage it can do to a youth offline can be devastating. How will they handle their pain — will they seek help by talking to an adult or will they possibly turn to substance use to mask their internal pain?

In a Times of India study, it revealed how cyberbullying effected both the online bully and the victim. With this, we have two young people that are struggling to overcome the stress of emotional pain — and now perhaps turning to substance abuse. It’s a full circle of emotional abuse with no winners, which is why parents need to take broader steps to open the dialogue to understand their teen’s online and offline lives.

Sexting might be the new normal, but it doesn’t make it right.

We’ve read a lot of articles about cyberbullying. Sexting can be considering an extension of it as more and more are teens are being lured into sending nudes which can lead to ridicule and harassment online. For many, there can be legal consequences that parents need to know and share with their teens before they find themselves facing sex charges.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their teens 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 teens hear news of sext crime cases, 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 a recent headline to open the lines of communication.

Make it real: Teens 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.

Address peer pressure: Teach your teens to be self-confident and take pride in their individuality. ‘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 teens that public humiliation stemming from it can be a million times worse. Also give them a way out. If someone is asking them for nudes, let them blame you! Your parent regularly monitor your phone and will take the device from them if they see any sexual content or comments.

Give them control: If teens 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.

Parents have to remember that conversations offline, as well as going online with your teen every once in a while, is imperative to helping them make better decisions when you’re not with them. It’s not about a once or twice chat, these are discussions you have on a regular basis – asking your teen how their cyber-life is should be as common as how their day was at school. It’s that important — and that much a part of their life.

Order Shame Nation book to learn more insights on digital wisdom. A perfect book for both parents and teens to read together and discuss.

posted by on Online reputation, Online Safety, Parenting Teens, Social media, Social Networking

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School’s Out: Students Travelling Abroad & Social Media

While parents understand that teenagers may gravitate to spending their summers with old friends doing activities in their hometown, summertime provides a great opportunity for teens to step outside of their comfort zone. Arguably, one of the most effective approaches to providing a fun-filled summer which stretches teens’ cultural, intellectual and social horizons is participation in a study abroad program. Besides the opportunity to pursue current interests or develop new ones, study abroad programs offer teens the excitement of travel and the chance to participate in and learn about different traditions. Depending on the program that your child chooses to travel with, he or she will have the chance to build new friendships with a group of students who come from a wide variety of states and countries.

Per a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have a smartphone and 45% of them are consistently online.  Of course, students studying abroad will most likely document their travels on social media. Recognizing that one’s social media profile can provide their first impression to the outside world, especially for high school students who are building their academic resume for colleges and potential employers, most study abroad programs provide a set of specific guidelines for teens regarding their use of social media. Abbey Road Programs has a particularly constructive approach to this issue, encouraging students to use social media for telling stories about their unique experiences abroad in an educational and appropriate manner.

“We encourage our students to maintain a strong yet respectful presence on Instagram and our company blog during their summer travels abroad”, says Arthur Kian, founder and director of Abbey Road Programs. “The members of our Student Ambassador program stay in touch with their friends and loved ones back home by uploading weekly pictures of architecture, cuisine, or landmarks in Western Europe and Quebec. Social media is a great opportunity for students to show colleges and potential employers their experiences immersing with cultures while studying in international universities”.

Student Ambassadors at Abbey Road publish their study abroad activities on Abbey Road’s website, as well as onto their personal Instagram accounts. While the organization encourages student ambassadors to actively publish their happenings on social media, Abbey Road also emphasizes that students should structure their content appropriately for a variety of audiences – not just peers. Blog and Instagram typically submissions occur a few times per week, allowing students to document new discoveries, friends and adventures.

For those of you who are about to send your child to another part of the globe, how can you make sure that your child is making their online presence interesting yet appropriate? Sue Scheff, founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts, Inc, argues that a teen should create his or her social media profile as their ‘Professional Brand’. “As your young adult starts to navigate the professional world, it’s more important than ever to start refining their online reputation”, says Sue. “For some young people, this might mean redefining themselves online. While you can’t redefine your young adult’s online presence for them, you can encourage them, and even take a moment to polish your own social media while you’re at it.”

Social media and blogging are the primary means of connecting with your friends and family when international calling and texting is limited and expensive. How can parents make sure that their child’s content is meaningful and doesn’t harm their reputation for years to come? Never be afraid to discuss with your son or daughter the consequences that can come from posting text or pictures that can convey a negative impression to colleges or employers.  However, while there’s a need to emphasize the importance of safety in online behavior, parents should also acknowledge the positive impressions conveyed by documenting new experiences while, for example, studying abroad.

Evan O’Connor is the Outreach Coordinator for Abbey Road Programs and leader of the company’s Student Ambassador Program.


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The importance of online reputation and your teen.

The majority of young people (tweens and teens) are on social media ‘a lot’ and according to the most recent PEW Survey, 45 percent of teens (13-17 years old) are connected almost constantly which is up from 24 percent in 2015.

We commonly hear how some apps are dangerous or other apps are breeding grounds for online bullies and hateful content.

In many cases it’s not as much about the app or technology, but it’s about human behavior.

We’re all a click away from….. from that oops moment.

Many kids jumped on social media when they were 13 years old (or younger) and they started building their digital footprint (whether they realized it or not). Even parents that carelessly overshare their child’s images or information about them could be putting their future online reputation at risk.

That might be a stretch — but it’s not out of the question.

Your online reputation can and will dictate your future.

Some 75 percent of colleges will preview a student’s online behavior prior considering them for acceptance, while 70 percent of employers will screen your social media before inviting you for an interview.

Reboot your online reputation

Is your teen getting ready to graduate high school? Heading to college? Maybe they’re graduating college – and heading into the workforce. Have they dusted off their digital profile lately?

It’s time for teens to reboot their online reputation from their tween-age self and start thinking about their future.

  1. Backstalk yourself: Take the time to backstalk yourself on social media. Scroll through your old Facebook or Instagram posts and tweets and freely use your delete button or click un-like on some of your youthful indiscretions. Does your seventh grade obsessions reflect who you are today? Maybe there are photos that are overly sexual or show yourself drinking or partying that you may want to eliminate.There’s also no harm in removing friends’ comments that are distasteful.
  2.  Build a blog or website:This is a great way to showcase your interests, awards, community service involvement, movie and book reviews and even poems or other writings you to have to share. Blogger through Gmail or WordPress offer simple free blog sites to get started on a blog, or you can start a free website on sites like Wix.
  3. Redefine your bio. Are you still hanging on to Cutie4U[at] or @ChilliNBeanZ? It’s time to retire your silly email addresses and handles and create a more mature (yet exciting) bio that tells your audience you’re passionate about life and your interests. Consider using an email with your name such as john.doe[at] and @JohnDoe – try to get as near to your a name as possible. When resumes are submitted with crazy email addresses, some have been tossed aside.
  4. Practice patience. This isn’t easy for youth. Help your teen to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind, once it’s posted it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.
  5. Sext education. Handle sex and tech with care. More surveys are sharing that the older the teenager is, the more likely they are to send or receive a sexual message. Does your teen understand the consequences (both legal and online ramifications) of sexting? Be sure you are having these conversations early and frequently.
  6. Digital resilience. Your teen will, no doubt, will deal with some form of online hate or harassment at one time or another. Be sure they are prepared for the ugly side of the Internet. Don’t allow cyber-combat to destroy their online reputation.

As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression — today that first impression is likely what the Internet is saying about you.  Are you Google ready?

Order Shame Nation book today  — it offers fantastic firsthand stories as well as advice, resources and tips to help you and your teens survive this new digital world that is now the driving force of our financial and emotional future.

  • • Preventing digital disasters
  • • Defending your online reputation
  • • Building digital resilience
  • • Reclaiming online civility

posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Online Safety, Parenting

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Parenting in the age of social media.

There’s no app for parenting teens online today – yet according to a recent PEW Research survey 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smartphone while almost half, 45 percent claim they are online constantly.  That’s up significantly from the last survey in 2015 when it was 24 percent were on almost constantly.

What else has changed?

Where the kids are virtually hanging out.

In 2015, 71 percent of teens were still using Facebook as their primary social scene. Today it’s dropped to fourth place. In the lead is YouTube at 85 percent, Instagram 72 percent and Snapchat at 69 percent.

Parenting in the age of technology.

No matter where our kids and teens are gravitating to online, parenting doesn’t change.

Like growing up offline, it’s never without challenges, however today it’s compounded with their digital life being as important as their real one. As a matter of fact, most teen’s believe that their online life is their life – period.

Although many parents may think of social media (technology) as an addiction, the young people see it as a distraction.

Aren’t most parents just as connected or distracted as their kids?

Parents are a major influence in their child’s life. Role-modeling is a priority, whether mom is texting and driving or dad is scrolling through his phone while talking to you, leading by example is how kids will develop their own digital habits.

We all must be aware of our online behavior at all times. Parents should be monitoring their children’s activity, but make no mistake about it, your kids are also watching you. If you’re cyber-gossiping, it gives them permission to do the same.

According to the recent PEW survey over a quarter of the teens (27 percent) have struggled with cyberbullying or harmful rumors.

Once upon a time, a teen wanting to be mean might tear some paper from a binder, scribble something nasty about a classmate, and pass it around school, sending it into the rumor mill for a week or so. Today, these slams are posted online for all the world to see, and they have the potential to inflict much more harm on their victim’s psyche.

Resilience is a word we’re all familiar with, however with the rise of online hate and harassment, it’s imperative to discuss with our teen’s about building digital resilience.

You don’t have to be tech savvy to be talk with your child about online behavior. How you treat people online is not any different than how you would face-to-face — you’re teen needs to hear this from you.

If they are being threatened or harmed online, be sure they know they are able to come to you (without judgement) and also be sure they have a backup plan if you’re not available.

It helps to understand why some tweens and teens don’t tell parents when bad things happen:

1)  Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.

2)  Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak.

3)  Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your child may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your child. Of course the child’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school or camp and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.

Is your teen aware of the consequences of sending nudes and sexting? This is a discussion that should be ongoing. As we frequently read headlines of sexting scandals in middle schools and high schools, never believe it can’t happen to you.

Remember, your teen may always be an app ahead of you – but you still need to be involved in all areas of parenting – and that includes digital parenting. Be interested in all apps your kids are using- even if you don’t understand them.

For more parent digital wisdom, order Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In the Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks) that is now in paperback.

  •  Preventing digital disasters
  • • Defending your online reputation
  • • Building digital resilience
  • • Reclaiming online civility