Examining the shame and bully climate impacting modern youth

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Shame_kills_communication_2Do you remember the first time you experienced shame as a child?

I do.

When I was about seven years old, a neighbor’s child brought out a Polaroid photo of his mother, taken by his father, and showed it to all of the children gathered on the sidewalk. He had found it in her underwear drawer.


It displayed his mother’s feminine parts in full glory, posing for her husband. I was stunned and the image of this woman I previously only knew as fully clothed, and never with that particular expression on her face, was and is seared in my mind. It felt like an assault to me, and I could not even begin to put words to describe what I was experiencing in my aching heart. The point I want to make here is that even as a small child, the shame emotion kept me from going to my mom or dad to talk about it. I was heartbroken and did not understand why at the time. Now I know it was a violation of trust in that family, that a child had committed a privacy and security breach in his parents’ marriage and his parent-child bond, and it was painful for me to witness it and I felt incredibly helpless to do anything about it.

Shame is a very powerful emotion; it involves the very real pain from the loss of human dignity when witnessing, engaging in and/or experiencing wrong or foolish behavior. And the other thing I have observed about shame is simply this: you do not have to be the person initiating the shame inspiring act. As a young woman, I was physically attacked on my way home from university campus (I was fortunate to escape attempted rape), and later I was stalked by another assailant who was a customer at the supermarket where I worked part time while in college.

At the time both assaults left me feeling incredibly isolated and alone– separated from the love relationships that offer secure connectedness. And today, by my faith and life experiences I understand that in order to remain in a state of shame, to be the victim who is helpless, I must agree with the thoughts,  actions and experiences that aim to attack my soul. And my faith assures me that I always have the power, by the grace of God, to choose my own thoughts and actions, and aim to do good and become a better version of myself. Putting into practice this eternal truth for humanity, that liberty already belongs to the soul, and it must be defended in our own hearts and minds despite what is happening in the world, is more important than ever for youth today.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Confronting cyber-powered shame as individuals and families

So let us fast forward to the challenges of modern families with mobile connectivity, and the shame inspiring content and experiences streaming into our hearts and minds – the thoughts and actions that are beneath us, that cause torment and inspire hostility, often presented as caring. It is that inner critic that tells us we are qualified to be the judge, that our limited opinions are sufficient evidence to engage in gossip as being honest or speaking truth, and justify harassment and bullying as vindication by demonizing individuals or groups; and qualifies sexual exploitation as an essential part of finding your place in the world.

Kim Fredrickson is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Roseville, and the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend (2015). “[Adolescents] need parents to provide a safe place where they can talk about the real pressures and insecurities they face,” she said. “They also need us to teach them from a very young age how to handle the shaming messages they receive from our ‘never good enough’ society, from peers, and from unrelenting comparisons via social media, TV, etc.”

Kim is one of the speakers at the 2016 Spring symposium, on Cyber-Powered Shame: How We Address It as Individuals and as Families, April 9, 2016 9am to 1:30pm in Carmichael, CA.

The most important thing we can do for modern youth is 1) to accept that our children will be exposed to shame-inspiring events and images that give life to a hostile spirit within, and 2) make our homes and classrooms and sports teams a safe place to unpack what is happening. Modern youth are seeking this authenticity, and without the wisdom of adults speaking the eternal truth of their chosen faith, youth  are at great risk of turning to addictions and exploitative relationships in pursuit of finding the spiritual fulfillment that appears elusive in a state of shame.

To that end, please consider registering for this symposium on shame today. This symposium is for all parents and all adults who have a heart for helping youth growing up in a cyber-powered world (therapists, counselors, educators, coaches, faith leaders, etc.). We have room to seat 50 people. The fee is $25 and includes lunch. It is a fundraiser for BMF (and 10 percent of all proceeds go to prison ministries). We have room for two additional sponsors.



Breaking the vicious cycle of Cyber-Powered Shame


Thank you to our event sponsors:

Living Smart Foundation/Beloved Recovery/Metahab


More Articles

Cyber Safety for Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9 FM The Fish Family Morning Show

Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner

Stevens_JodieGenuine Life with Jodie Stevens




In a cyber-powered world that features shame inspiring events and experiences, it is important to get a “fresh start”. Fresh Start Family Culture Builder for Household Executives is a crash course on creating a family culture that fosters open communication, builds trust and individual resilience. Get your copy today.

“My faith informs me that we can all choose to set aside shame and begin anew…Let us create a “One Million Fresh Start Families by 2020” movement. More on this campaign at the April 9, Symposium on Cyber-Powered Shame.” – Joanna Jullien



ABOUT:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.

Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

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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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.