posted by on Civility, Online Shaming

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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.


posted by on Online image, Online Life, Online reputation, Parenting Teens

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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


posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Online activity, Online bullying, Online Safety, Social media

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6 Ways You Can Keep Your Teen from Posting Something They’ll Regret

Teenagers are known for pushing boundaries. They’re searching for their independence, making decisions for themselves, and pulling away from their parents. But many teens are still developing emotionally, meaning they may be more prone to making impulsive decisions.

Those choices have real consequences, especially online. A 2013 study conducted by Pew Research Center showed that 19 percent of teens have posted things online they regret, and that percentage is likely much higher now.

According to one study, a lot of factors go into online safety for kids—including mental health, online crime, and cyberbullying regulation. So how do you navigate all those points and help your teenager avoid posting something online they’ll regret later? Follow the tips below.

  1. Listen without Judgement

Staying close to your teenager can be difficult because teens often reject perceived parental interference. By helping them feel acknowledged and validated and respected at home, you can reduce the likelihood that they’ll depend on outside sources for validation.

When teenagers make offhand comments about their day, they’re often trying to reach out. Stop what you’re doing and make eye contact as you engage with them. Don’t be dismissive. Showing empathy, reflecting the comment back, and acknowledging them is important.

  1. Give Praise and Encouragement

When children are younger, we tend to praise them for a job well done. But teens need self-esteem boosts, too. Look for opportunities to give encouragement to your teen—they may act like they don’t care what their parents think, but they still want your approval.

Encouraging them will help your relationship grow, especially if you’re going through a rough patch. If your teen feels appreciated, they’ll be a lot more willing to have conversations (and hear feedback) about online behavior.

  1. Discuss Online Usage Directly

Ask your teen about what they’re posting online and how they’re using social media apps. Review with them that even sharing something with friends can be forwarded outside their trusted circle, and once something is sent, they can’t really take it back or erase it.

Some teens don’t understand that unkind posts or compromising videos or photos could hurt their reputation down the line, so talk to them about how colleges and employers could have access to that digital footprint.

  1. Review Their Connections

Social media is a great tool for connecting with friends, but lots of kids today are connected with users they haven’t met in person before, which isn’t safe. Remind your teen that their followers should be people they have a relationship with and know, and if they have questions about certain people, they should ask you.

Help them understand their followers and friends may not make the best decisions when it comes to re-sharing digital messages or pictures. Walk through how they’d feel about putting the decision-making power in someone else’s hands when sharing a picture intended only for a few friends.

  1. Establish a Family Agreement

Allowing your teen to see that the entire family sees internet safety as an important issue in the home will help them see how important it is to keep information private. Here are some points to include:

  • Do not share sensitive information. Everyone should refrain from sharing full names, social security numbers, birthdates, phone numbers or addresses.
  • Avoid posting when you’re emotional. If you’re sad or upset or mad, those emotions don’t belong online. Talk to a family member or a friend.
  • Think before you post. Ask yourself if you would want this picture or post to be on the internet forever. Even if you’re using an app that deletes after a few seconds, the post could still stay online.
  1. Take Breaks from Social Media

Having never-ending access to hundreds of apps and millions of people makes social media enticing to both teens and adults, so set that access aside from time to time. Making room for digital downtime will help you and your teen grow your relationship, and it will also remind them that social media isn’t the whole world.

Put the phones away for an afternoon, or pledge to have a no technology week and schedule activities outside for the family. Giving your teens time away from their digital world can help them see they don’t have to be tethered to it at all times—life really does happen offline. 

Following these tips can help your teen choose to use social media and online apps in a responsible way, and you can feel safe knowing they’re making the right choices online.

Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate. 

posted by on Distracted driving, Parenting, Parenting Teens

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May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month 

Prom season is here, and that means many teens will be driving on that special night. And of course, most will have a smartphone in hand to capture the memories. But AT&T wants to remind young drivers during this, Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones while driving.

To help keep those prom memories happy ones, AT&T is offering these tips:

  • Take the pledge to NEVER drive distracted at, and get your friends to do the same. AT&T research shows pledging matters and makes a difference. According to the findings of a 2016 survey, almost half of people who pledged said they now don’t use their smartphones while driving. Those who share their promise or pledge with others are even more likely to stop, and more likely to speak up to others.
  • Use #TagYourHalf on social media to pressure your friends to never drive distracted. New AT&T research shows 57% of drivers would stop using their phones behind the wheel if pressured by a friend. The #TagYourHalf social media campaign encourages you to tag your better half, your BFF – the one person you can’t live without – encouraging them to stop driving distracted. Also, a teen survey conducted by AT&T also revealed 90% of teens say they would stop texting while driving if a friend in the car asked them to.
  • Download a free app, like DriveMode, to help curb the urge to text and drive. AT&T DriveMode is available to customers of all wireless carriers for iPhone and Android users. It can silence incoming alerts and phone calls so you stay focused while driving. Its auto mode feature automatically turns on the app when you reach 15 MPH and turns it off after you stop. The app can automatically respond to texts on your behalf letting the person know you’re behind the wheel and will get back with them when you reach your destination.

According to new research just released by AT&T:1

  • Nearly 9-in-10 people admit to using their smartphone while driving.
  • Nearly 4-in-10 drivers call distracted driving a habit.
  • Nearly a quarter of people don’t see it as a major problem.
  • Tens of thousands of people are injured – and hundreds die – every year due to smartphone distracted driving. 2
  • Smartphone activities people say they do while driving include:
  • Research shows taking an action and speaking up can help reduce distracted driving.
















–      Pledge to never drive distracted at

  • 7-in-10 drivers who have pledged are keeping their commitment to not use their smartphones behind the wheel.

–      Speak Up:

  • 57% of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to.
  • That means half of people are just waiting for someone to tell them to stop! So #TagYourHalf, your better half, your BFF, the one person you can’t live without, encouraging them to stop driving distracted.

AT&T also launched new It Can Wait ads in April to reach more people with the campaign’s key message: distracted driving is never OK. The spots are titled “The Face of Distracted Driving”, and they drive home the powerful message that no distraction is worth a future. If teenagers Caleb Sorohan and Forrest Cepeda were alive today, they might be pursuing their dream jobs or teaching their kids to play sports. Maybe they’d still be figuring life out. But we’ll never know – smartphone distracted driving cut their lives short.

Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris captured Caleb’s and Forrest’s heartbreaking stories through in-depth interviews with their families. In these short film productions, you’ll hear their siblings tell how special their lives were. You’ll see their mothers’ pain as they remember their loss. And through the collaboration of forensic artists and a visual effects team, you’ll even get a glimpse at what they would’ve looked like today.

Here are links to the full-length spots, as well as :30 second clips. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see these spots in different places – like at the movies, on social channels and through online video.

In the 8 years since its inception, It Can Wait has made an impact that AT&T aims to extend moving forward.

  • Nearly all of those surveyed consider smartphone distracted driving to be dangerous.1
  • And the It Can Wait pledge campaign has inspired more than 23 million personal commitments to never drive distracted – many among friends and family who pledged to keep each other accountable.
  • The free AT&T DriveMode® app that can silence incoming text messages when you’re driving and automatically send a customizable auto-reply message has reached more than 20 million downloads.

Online survey with 7,505 respondents (total distracted drivers n=6,438) conducted by Kantar Added Value. Ongoing survey, data represented here were collected January 2017- December 2017. National panel sample (ages 15-54, drive, and have a smartphone).

posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Internet Safety, Online bullying, Online reputation, Parenting, Social media

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Even with the strictest of privacy settings, we need to be self-aware of not only what we share online, but how we are sharing. Our social media behavior is a reflection of our offline character. Everyone knows that we don’t get a second chance to make chance to make a first impression — today your first impression is likely your digital one.

Many people don’t realize that even if their Facebook profile is secure in the highest settings for privacy, their profile and cover picture will always be public. This also means that the comments that are left on these images are wide open for the world to read too. It’s important to keep tabs on them — since you can control them and delete them if they are distasteful.

In a Ghent University study, employers actually used the public profile pictures before deciding to interview potential applicants — that’s an example of the  importance of what you share online today. It may not seem fair or appropriate – but it’s happening.

From employers to colleges and even relationships, people are using the Google rinse cycle for initial background checks. If you were a victim of cyber-shaming, as I was over a decade ago, it can be troubling. Many don’t take the time to decipher Internet fact from fiction. Smart people can – and – do make dumb digital decisions, and good people can fall prey to vindictive trolls or otherwise jealous foes.

Oversharing is probably one of the most common ways people fall into the trap of online reputation blunders or even disasters.

By practicing safe sharing, or simply improving the way you share your information, you can reduce your risks of becoming a victim of digital oops moments.

5 Ways to rethink social online sharing:

  1. Is it necessary. Oversharing is what will get most people in trouble. Does everyone really need to know where you’re eating or vacationing or is this a humblebrag?  Or maybe you just bought yourself a new Gucci purse – besides treating yourself, why share this globally? Is this being petty? Maybe — but some people reading it are either agreeing or seeing themselves.  According to a Harvard study, humblebragging can get you in trouble – they are perceived as less than credible, not well liked and viewed as insincere.  Not everything needs to be digitally documented.
  2. Emotional sharing: The Internet is unforgiving. Face-to-face time or even talking to a friend is still a way to connect with those that care about you and won’t linger online forever. Anger is temporary — the Internet is permanent.
  3. Content you share: 15 minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation. Will your post embarrass you or someone else? Never rely on privacy settings, as mentioned above, the unexpected can happen. This is your digital landscape.
  4. Constructive sharing: You may not always agree with a comment or an article, yet feel strongly about your own opinion. Be sure you share constructively. Don’t use a combative tone that usually causes conflict and contention.
  5. Know your audience: Limit your viewership and create lists that have your target audiences (friends, families, co-workers etc). Take time to de-clutter your friends and contacts lists on your social platforms (including your cell phone). Sharing with the wrong people has consequences.  Maybe you have a target audience that enjoys seeing your vacations and restaurant trips (closest family members and friends) – create a specific list for that.

For more insights on digital wisdom for improving your online sharing skills and online reputation, order Shame Nation book. I’ve provided over 25 contributors and experts from around the globe with their firsthand stories and insights to help people learn from their experiences.

As we know, we’re all a click away from digital disgrace. A Tweet away from losing a job. A post away from having college acceptance revoked. Isn’t it time we start becoming aware of how we use the devices we are most attached to? Our keypads.

Order Shame Nation today.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Digital citizenship, Internet Privacy, Online harassment, Online reputation, Parenting, Parenting Teens

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What is sexting?

According to Merriam-Webster, sexting is “The sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.”

However, that definition can easily be expanded today. Cell phones aren’t the only medium for sexting. On the contrary, all forms of social media can be used for this purpose. In the digital world — where our children and teens spend so much time — the playground for sexting is growing. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram and even YouTube, a child is able to engage in sexting.

Sexting among youth on the rise

In a recent JAMA Pediatrics study, sexting has become more common among adolescents. Of particular concern, the researchers say, is that about 12 percent of sexts were forwarded without consent, which they called “troubling.” When sexting is coerced, or when sexts are shared without consent, it can lead to harassment by friends, cyberbullying or blackmailing.

It’s also important to note, according to this study, the prevalence of sexting increased as the teen gets older. With this factor — we need to step up our conversations earlier and more frequently.

The role of sexting (online and offline)

When young people sext, they often lose control of the situation quickly. Messages can easily be intercepted or forwarded to unintended recipients, which is a nasty form of cyberbullying.

The consequences of sexting also extend offline. When something that was intended to be a private communication ends up in public, the shame and humiliation can drive our kids to the point of self-destruction. Another consequence of sexting: Experts have found children and teens that sext are more likely to engage in real-world sexual activity  than students who don’t sext.

The issue is compounded when adults aren’t setting the right examples. The media often reports on sexting cases that involve public figures. “10 Cases of Sexting Gone Horribly Wrong“ discusses politicians, teachers and even a talk show host who were caught committing sexting crimes. These adults should have been role models for our youth. Instead, they provide examples of what not to do.

The sext chat

For years, many parents have cringed at the thought of having the “birds and the bees” conversation. Now, we have to open the door for the “sext talk” with our kids at an even younger age. Jessica LoganHope WitsellAudrie Pott and Amanda Todd are all names that have become linked with the aftermath of sexting and cyberbullying, which go hand-in-hand. As a study in Pediatrics reveals, we have to realize that we’re dealing with even younger emotional lives.

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”?

  1. Talk about it. Frequently and start early! Use age appropriate language, however stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults.
  2. 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.
  3. Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
  4. Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramifications when you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
  5. If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
  6. Know that your parent is only a call away. Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.

Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available:

Order Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017) book for more valuable digital parenting resources.

posted by on Civility, Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Online Security, Oversharing

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Life is full of potential addictions; you don’t have to look too far to find them. When teens consider the concept of addiction, they likely think about cigarettes and substance abuse, but oversharing on social media doesn’t always register as a cause for concern.

Oversharing is difficult to self-diagnose, so it takes support from friends and family to bring the problem to light. Investing an excess amount of time on social media can compromise a teen’s real-life interactions, and it’s been shown to impact social and emotional development, as well as certain personality traits.

According to a Pew Research Internet Project survey from titled “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy,” although a majority of teens guard their Facebook profiles with adequate privacy settings, “25 percent have a partially private profile, set so that friends of their friends can see what they post. And 14 percent of teens say that their profile is completely public.” Among the millions of social networking teenagers, 39 percent amounts to a considerable population.

Advertisers have been known to target teens on social networks to promote their brands and glean important business data — which is a concern for some parents. Despite the positive trends in teens managing online privacy, “Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9 percent say they are ‘very’ concerned.” With the multitude of high-profile data breaches over the past year, it’s shortsighted to rule out even the slightest chance of social profile data leaking out.

To help shed light whether or not your teen’s level of social media sharing is unhealthy, here are five direct and indirect questions to ask (adapted from SmartSign’s digital detox quiz):

1) Do people in your life complain about how much time you spend on your phone when you’re with them?
2) Has your job/school performance suffered due to time spent using social media?
3) When you wake up in the morning, is the first thing you reach for your smartphone?
4) Is no meal complete without it being Instagrammed?
5) Do you check your email or social network while using the restroom?

Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you have an account on at least one or two of the following social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram. However, the list of platforms for oversharing doesn’t stop there.

Countless teens are active on newer social apps, like Snapchat. With all of the social spaces available today — and the desire to have a constant pulse on everything that’s trending locally and globally — there comes a time when the amount of time you’re spending on social media hurts more than it helps.

Remember that a dependence on social media doesn’t just include scrolling through friends’ statuses or new photos on Instagram. Posting too much, too often can have an unfortunate impact on the development of our youth.

Parents: Do you overshare your children online?

The @KidsForPrivacy campaign is to make parents aware that the cute or funny photos they share of their children, especially when they’re posted along with certain hashtags (think, #pottytraining, #nakedchild, #bathtimefuntime, and the like), can overexpose their kids, possibly even making them a target for pedophiles and sex offenders.

The Child Rescue Coalition notes, for example, that 90 percent of children have a social media presence of some kind by the time they are 2 years old, and a 2015 poll by TIME and SurveyMonkey of more than 2,000 parents in the United States found that millennials were far more likely to share photos of their kids online compared to previous generations (only 19 percent of millennials said they’d never done it, compared to 30 percent of Gen X parents).

Safe-sharing guidelines from Shame Nation book:

  1. Sharing too much.
  2. Sharing inappropriate content.
  3. Sharing with the wrong people.
  4. Sharing in haste.
  5. Sharing without dignity.