How children give up power in the network, and what to do about it

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Photo: dno1967b(Flickr)

CyberParenting Topic on TheFish103.9FM, Tuesday Mornings

Retention of personal power is the biggest challenge of cyber-powered living. By this I mean, the ability to avoid being compromised by or lowering your standards to nefarious influences in the network.

 Two main ways that power is surrendered are:

1) Over reliance upon technology as an alternative to relationships (especially at home), and

 2) Keeping secrets.

 When technology replaces real relationships at home

In a recent conversation with Kim Fredrickson, a Marriage and Family Therapist in Roseville, California, she explains how parents help children strike a healthy balance in their use of technology. Without this balance, children are vulnerable to the nefarious influences in the network which result in anxiety/depression, cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, substance abuse, and access to pedophiles.

Kim Fredrickson, MFT, Roseville, Ca

Fredrickson cautions parents to not give away their own power to connect, influence and impact their kids when they pass the connection baton from themselves to technology. She observes that children tend to give up too much power – to please, to entertain, and to fill a void when real relationships are lacking.

“As parents, one of our primary jobs is to help our kids feel emotionally close and bonded,” Fredrickson said.

This is done through taking time to listen, talk, play, physical contact, and hanging out. If this need is not met (and it does not have to be perfect), kids will go looking for it elsewhere. So technology becomes one of the “perfect solutions” to a lonely and disconnected kid…It gives instantaneous feedback, it’s always there, kids feel acknowledged, heard, and responded to with texting, e-,mails, etc. It is also counterfeit and doesn’t satisfy…because these aren’t real face to face connections that fill the soul.

Keeping secrets

The second major way we give up power is by keeping secrets.

Secrets usually involve risky or unseemly choices, affiliations or circumstances. And they wind up becoming a burden, making kids feel like they cannot escape, for fear the light of day would reveal what they had done or to what they had been exposed. And there is no end to the threats of individuals exploiting them until the secret is revealed to parents and/or authorities.

“We want to be acknowledged, heard, listened to, responded to and empathized with. If we don’t get this need met adequately, we will find ways to meet it,” Fredrickson said. “We try to meet it through connections with things, activities, and people. However unmet this need is, is how strongly we will pursue it, regardless of the negatives associated with the way we are trying to satisfy it.”

And so the pedophiles are counting on children seeking emotional connections on line.

According to sources of federal and local law enforcement, the pedophiles use social media to groom children by cultivating a “trusting relationship” with empathy.  By gaining their trust, they convince kids to reveal more things about themselves, and engage them in sexually exploitive acts (text/photos/videos/encounters).

Some of the best examples of secrets involve sexually explicit photos, and or sexually exploitive relationships with pedophiles. A Grass Valley (California) man held hundreds of kids hostage by getting them to reveal things one baby step at a time, until he had photos and other evidence that would be humiliating. He extorted introductions to others in their networks  and managed to seduce and coerce minors in social media networks across Northern California and South America

The most important thing parents can do to help children with secrets is to declare up front that they are forgiven, and that if there is any poor judgement or trouble, you will be there to support them in facing the consequences and to stand corrected.

Why forgiveness matters

Children do not want to disappoint and they fear humiliation. And the bad actors in the net are counting on this as well. Children need to know they have a safe place at home, and that their relationship with you will not be wiped out by anything they are hiding from you now.

Place emphasis on honesty and transparency, so you can help your child recover from bad choices with better ones.

In order to do this, forgiveness is essential. For more on forgiveness, visit Why forgiveness matters for your child.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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