We all know that cyber technology introduces many benefits and risks. The ability to stay connected to family and friends who live far away is a wonderful benefit. And by the same token, the ability to be and/or feel anonymous from behind the screen with cyber tools is a serious risk because inhibitions are easily lowered; it is easy to be mean and be duped. Modern tweens and teens are witnessing and encountering situations that are frankly, adult issues, including bullying, exploitation and addiction. So in the network culture, trust is the main currency; and it is vital that children learn early how to trust and be trusted in the social network for personal security.
Solution: The most important thing a parent can do is become the “trusted advisor” so that your child’s cyber-powered communities do not become a single point of reference for life. Here are some tips.
- Refrain from judging other people and their actions on and off line. The more critical you are and the more judgy you are, the less trustworthy you are perceived as a resource for wisdom and children will be tempted to keep serious things from you.
- Get your child talking with you about the things they are witnessing in their world. Ask open-ended questions, like “What do you think about that situation or circumstance?”
- Shed fear. Worrying is not the same thing as caring. It is the opposite. Worry is a product of fear and there is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18) Imagine your fear as a pile of toxic waste in a wheel barrow and place it at the foot of the Cross.
- Clarify for your child that trust and faith are not the same thing. Trust among people is always verifiable, because we are imperfect – hence parents as guardians monitor cyber communications in order to ensure personal security and impart wisdom.
- Finally, do not lecture. Ask your child if they are interested in your thoughts about a situation, and odds are in your favor they will want to hear your perspective if it is offered rather than forced. Offering to “compare notes” about your life lessons with your child’s experiences strengthens the parent-child bond as you empower your child to say “yes” to wisdom which cannot be forced. It must be received with a willing heart. God knows all about it. (Psalm 5: 11-12)
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
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- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
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- 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.