Cyber safety for kids and families on The Fish 103.9FM Family Morning Show
The headlines last week about young teens arrested for cyber stalking associated with the Florida teen suicide (Rebecca Sedwick), and the Sparks, Nevada 12-year-old who brought a gun to his middle school wounding two students, and killing a math teacher before he shot himself, gives us pause about who is raising the children.
My faith tells me that these types of news stories are tragic examples of how a lie can become an experience that murders the truth. The truth is that our children are not stalkers, bullies and murderers; they are indeed magnificent blessings from God. And it is also true that our children if not properly socialized are vulnerable to extremely hostile emotions and sociopathic thinking.
In their cyber-powered worlds the hostility they experience can become all consuming, much like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
The three main things that law enforcement tell me they find on children’s mobile devices are gossip, bullying and inappropriate photos (sexting) which can be used for cyberbullying. And so the greatest cyber threats are those that come from hostility inspired by unforgiveness which is actually learned at home.
Forgiveness makes individual resiliency and peace possible
Human beings are feeling creatures who think. So whether we intend to or not, every one of us eventually winds up offending others or being offended by others. It is a big part of the human experience. So forgiveness is critical for cyber safety because without it a hostile spirit prevails in our children’s cyber-powered peer communities as resentments become expressed as bullying, and children keep risky secrets (such as being bullied or exploited).
Below are some points to help clarify forgiveness as a family value:
- Help children use their imagination to understand forgiveness as holding on to a heavy weight (an anchor) and trying to stay afloat treading in deep water. Ask him to think about what happens when he is holding on to a block of cement. You sink to the bottom, and drown, right? It is not possible to breathe when we allow weights to hold us down. So forgiveness is releasing the weights that would otherwise keep your spirit from getting oxygen – God’s love.
- Forgiveness is not the same thing as excuse; you can still hold individuals accountable without resentment. It is also not about being right or wrong. It is about not agreeing to be a victim to the things that offend us or hurt us. When we learn to forgive, it is possible to be a free agent in the flesh and in the social network.
- As our children’s first teachers, children need to learn how to forgive starting with parents. There will be times when parent discipline feels offensive to the child. Whether you as the parent are right or wrong, it is important to acknowledge when your child resists or acts hurt when you enforce a consequence or give unwanted attention. Listen to your child with your heart. If your child demonstrates serious emotional injury from something you have done, right or wrong, ask your child to consider forgiving what you did so it will be possible to have a good conversation and you both can learn something. You learn something about your child, and your child will be more open to understanding the value of the discipline or unwanted parental attention. A forgiving parent resolute about imparting wisdom through discipline is what our children need to be cyber-safe.
- As a parent, the most important way you model forgiveness for your child is to not be judgmental of our own children’s poor choices, or other people’s children and their parents when they are caught making risky choices. What the child learns when we are criticizing and judging others is that it is not safe to come to you when they encounter risky or harmful activities happening in her life – whether the harm is based upon their own actions or the actions of their peers. For example, a child caught in the snare of a pedophile will keep that secret for fear that they will lose your love if their bondage is revealed – and the pedophile is counting on it. When children know that in your family the power to forgive and stand corrected is valued and practiced, it promotes a healthier, cyber safe family environment characterized by open communication.
For more about teaching kids to be responsible and safe users of texting and social media go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.