CyberParent Power Topic of the Week
No doubt the social network presents an enormous power crisis for the parent-child relationship as surveys indicate that parents are essentially clueless about what is happening with their children’s cyber-powered lives. According to a report published by The Family On-Line Institute in November 2012, 39% of teens said their parents monitored their on-line activities while 84% of parents said they monitored their teen’s usage closely.
Peg Scott, Professor of Psychology at American River College, knows all too well how devastating this digital gap can be. Her son Will took his own life in 2010. He was 18 years old. “If I had one thing I would do differently,” she said, “It would be to monitor the computer and mobile phone. We started out with the computer in the family room, and then I just got too trusting because they gave me no reason to think otherwise.” The trust Scott expressed by not monitoring left her son vulnerable to cyberbullying and he withdrew.
Scott believes that while parents cannot be responsible for the decisions their children make and the outcomes of their lives, we must be more aware and open to what is happening with them. “We need to learn from them and not jump to conclusions,” she said. “Their childhoods are informing them differently. We don’t know everything. We can cause harm if we do not find a way for the child to express what is going on inside. So you [the parent] have to deal with your own stuff first, just like the emergency directions on an airplane to put your own oxygen mask on before you take care of your child.”
The topic of social media will come up early and it should be an experience for the child that is open and transparent to the parent. Below are some tips to prepare yourself and then your child:
Be clear about your guardian role. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to grant their children privacy. There is a difference between granting privacy and respecting it. We respect our children’s privacy by not sharing personal stuff without their permission, and are protective about giving it out.
Granting children privacy is a form of abdication that often happens with intense pressure from the child to back off. Many children believe that if you really love them you will grant them privacy. They confuse trust (always verifiable among people), faith (reserved for God who requires no proof) and love (which involves discipline). So it is important to have good conversations about your role as the parent, who has their back on and off line.
Integrity check. Be prepared to talk with your child about integrity and personal security on line. Integrity is being consistent by aligning your actions with your beliefs and values. It is considered a critical part of being trustworthy. And for children today, our digital natives, trust is currency; it is seriously valued.
Kids need to understand that when your actions are in alignment with your values and beliefs, then you are somewhat predictable. People feel safe having a good idea of how you will tend to react to situations and behave in different circumstances. So therefore it is important that everything you post and text resembles who you really are. In other words, don’t send, post or text anything that would not make your mom or dad proud.
There are a lot of nefarious influences and bad actors who seek to detour our children away from the values and norms that keep them secure and free from being compromised or exploited. Integrity is more difficult to maintain, especially for our children who can feel pressure to believe things that are not true (i.e., you are invisible if you are not on Instagram, Twitter, kik; that everybody partakes in underage drinking, or sending naked photos of yourself is required of a girlfriend/boyfriend), and focus on things that really don’t matter (how many “friends” in your network).
Game plan for social networking security
Conduct random, periodic integrity checks with your child. Document your household beliefs and values and then review the last two days worth of texts and posts. Do they line up? Are they consistent?
Examples of beliefs and values:
Cyber technology is a privilege and a rite of passage, not a right. That means that there are conditions of use. We have house rules that govern our actions on line. (See house rules fundamentals).
- Honesty (don’t exaggerate or say things that are not true)
- Kindness (if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything; do not allow bullying to go unchecked – get help if you see someone being bullied or harassed)
- Good citizenship (contributing to the family, school community, and society)
- Trustworthiness (safe to be around – no gossiping – and reliable)
- Courtesy (good manners, no interrupting, taking turns, etc.)
Benefits to your child
- Less chance of being duped by bad actors and other people trying to dominate, exploit or manipulate others
- Peace of mind knowing that the things you post cannot be used against you
- Less drama and anxiety in your life
- Feeling empowered by self-discipline; puts your child in command of their cyber world
For more about family-safe strategies for texing and social media, go to:
A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media
Review and purchase $6.99:
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, Tuesdays. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is just released. Purchase via Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (iPad and Nook).