Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on The Fish Family Morning Show 103.9 FM The Fish
A recent article in Communities Digital News features observations that kids growing up in the network culture (since the 1990s) lack social skills and confidence, which also includes a lack of empathy. My experience in the field over the past decade suggests that youth have not been prepared to deal with the anti-social experiences encountered in cyber-powered peer communities. Without proper socialization, the social network can become a hostile bully climate resembling a virtual Lord of the Flies experience, wherein the perceived risk is to stand separate from the group when your personal values are compromised. This is one of the reasons why cyberbullying is so prevalent and difficult to check.
In the cyber-powered world where youth are exposed to images about sexuality, drugs and uncivil conduct (foul language and violence) at earlier ages, there is serious pressure to go against your better judgment (beyond what previous generations have experienced), and wherein “risky” is perceived as simply not being in alignment with your peer group. Group think becomes the safe haven until or unless you become the target. In this regard, cyber-powered peer communities via text and social media can easily become a single point of reference for life that present lies as truth, including:
• Prescription pills are safe because doctors prescribe them.
• The kind words behind the stranger’s picture make him trustworthy.
• In order to be intimate, sex must be involved.
• To demonstrate affection to a romantic interest, I must send a naked photo of myself.
• Piling on to gossip and harassment of an individual, and or sharing harassing statements and images is not a big deal. (Lack of empathy – little or no face to face confrontation.)
Now more than ever, children need to be encouraged, instructed and inspired to think for themselves especially when they are feeling pressure to go along with the group dynamic that is unkind or dangerous. And parents as the primary teachers about life are uniquely positioned to encourage kids to seek wisdom from their own relationship with the Lord by encouraging them to think for themselves, rather than simply going along with “group think” in order to get along –to not stand out.
A child’s access to wisdom
James 1:5 tells us that God grants wisdom generously to the sincere heart without finding fault. This includes children today who in the network make many more risk-laden choices every day than a generation ago. So parents can help children cultivate their own access to Wisdom, by clarifying the difference between brave and risky.
Brave v. risky.
Both can make you feel discomfort. However, you are brave when you do the right thing even though you are afraid of displeasing your friends or being left out; while risky is ignoring your little voice warning you that it’s not right or dangerous.
Some examples of brave:
• Involving a trusted adult when you see a peer or friend posting messages about suicide or causing harm to others.
• Redirecting conversations on line that are gossip, rather than remaining silent or piling on.
• Ignoring flattering or flirtageous communications from strangers, and involving an adult.
• When something happens that disturbs your peace, bringing the situation to a parent or another trusted adult no matter how much you are humiliated or embarrassed.
Examples of risky:
• Creating accounts on social networks you have not discussed with parents or evaluated in order to keep up an on line social presence with your peers.
• Creating alternate social media accounts to hide from your parents.
• Engaging conversation with the voice of the stranger in the photo who is in your friends’ networks, but you have not met in person.
• Spending time on anonymous websites/social networks (Ask.FM, 4Chan, Chat Roulette)
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.
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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.