Last Memorial Day weekend proved fateful for three teens at Whitney High who were arrested on suspicion of making annoying internet communications and criminal threats and then released on June 2. According the Sacramento Bee report the teens (one of them 18 years old and the other two 17years old) were linked to an Instagram profile that featured the statement “Whitney High School new world order 5/30/14,” posted seven weeks earlier.
The police were alerted when parents and students became concerned that the social media message was an indicator of a potential terrorist plot resembling so many since Columbine and most recently in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago.
An anonymous source indicated that the Rocklin 18-year-old was an excellent student athlete who was preparing to enter into college in the fall. What a tragedy to have this arrest on his record as an adult. This is a cautionary tale for our children to understand that there is power in freedom of speech which can be used for good or not good. The statement posted by these teens demonstrated a lack of maturity most certainly. Definitely these teens’ words were not wise and served no other purpose but to excite. And even though the investigation so far has not turned up any evidence of serious intent to do harm, these teens have court dates and potentially their future education plans may be altered as one of the natural consequences.
Cyber-powered communications and the limits of the law
Cyber powered communities can become a single point of reference for life making youth more vulnerable to believing things that are not true or focusing on things that don’t really matter – including seeking 15 minutes of fame. Below are some examples of how youth may wind up in trouble with the law using social media
- Hate speech, threats and cyberbullying. Whether via texting or social media posts, kids can be arrested for making terrorist or criminal threats. Help your child understand that whatever they are feeling, they have the power to choose how to respond to things that offend or cause them pain. There is always a choice to be made, and it is better to seek wise counsel than to act on impulse. Make sure your child has identified trustworthy individuals to advise when they are struggling with emotion. If not you, then a relative, family friend or school official.
- Parties out of control. Social media makes it difficult to invite only your friends. People from all over the area crash parties posted via social media, and often it gets out of control with alcohol and drug-fueled behavior and large crowds. If your child wants to have a small gathering, have her to talk to her friends privately about it and avoid sharing the event on social media. And then be prepared to handle party crashers.
- Felony child porn. Minors sharing sexually explicit photos of themselves is a federal offense – it is child pornography. Boys especially need to be coached to demonstrate respect for the opposite sex and avoid sharing compromising photos and comments. According to law enforcement officials with whom I have spoken, minor boys can risk being arrested for child pornography and be registered as a sex offender, especially if they are distributing photos. And by the same token the problem for girls with sexting is that their reputation suffers and they can experience serious cyberbullying resulting in humiliation that may not feel survivable. Whatever parents can do to validate their daughters for their natural beauty and intelligence is important.
- Drug trafficking. Prescription pills are easily traded via texting. Kids “google” what they think they need to know about a medication and then share or trade them in plain sight coordinating exchanges via texting. Explain to your child that prescription drugs are prescribed so that the dosage meets your personal requirements. Relying upon other methods to treat your issues is dangerous. Assure your child that you are interested in helping him to get well if he has any issues with medication or drugs. Resource: Full Circle Treatment Center
Cultivating a culture of transparency: House rules as points of conversation
Every law enforcement officer will tell you that open communication with your child is critical to keep kids safe from the pitfalls of the open communication of the social network.
Each family has a unique culture, as every individual is unique. The fundamentals of house rules below offers some criteria for you to establish your own house rules based upon your values and culture. These fundamentals take into consideration the characteristics needed to cultivate more confident and secure perspectives of individuals relating and interacting in the ‘net’ and the culture influenced by the ‘net’.
- Consider Internet access and smart phones as a rite of passage – not a right.
- No secrets, no surprises. Transparency mandatory.
- Explain why the rule exits and how they benefit individuals and the family.
- Regulate schedule and access to cyber tools (mobile phones and Internet).
- Unplug phones at a designated time in the evening.
- Only hit “send” if your mother could read it and be proud.
- Establish and enforce consequences for rules violations.
- Institute a family-approved app list and train kids to only use apps pre-approved
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is 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.
- Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM (videos)
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
- Like Banana Moments
- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
- Sign up to receive Banana Moments quarterly and monthly updates
- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.