How to instill social network confidence in your child

Monday, May 21st, 2012

CyberParentingTopics featured on TheFish103.9FM Tuesday mornings

Photo: Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Flickr)

  •  1.     Why is confidence so important in the network?

Confidence is defined as being certain of what to do in most situations.

It is the opposite of being insecure.

Confidence is important because our children are being challenged by so much uncertainty and untruth in their on-line worlds.

When children are confident, they involve parents in appropriate ways (see example 1) when they encounter a bad situation involving cyber technology. Without confidence the children are subject to becoming victims of bad actors who would exploit them (see example 2).

Example 1: In March 2010, a 27-year-old Roseville man (California) was arrested for soliciting sex from a 15-year-old boy. He had handed the teen a note with a mobile phone number to contact him as the teen was exiting the bus.

Dee Dee Gunther, spokeswoman for the Roseville Police Department, said that the details of the indecent proposal that the suspect handed the teenager were withheld. “It was a very graphic and embarrassing note,” said Gunther, “The teenager should be commended for showing it to his mother, who then took it to the police.

Had this young man decided to simply ignore the note because he didn’t want his parents to know what happened, or the mother decided it was too difficult to go to the police, the suspect would still be loose searching for more victims.

Near misses like the one experienced by this Roseville teen are an opportunity to snag the creeps who take advantage of cyber technology. In this network culture, most teens have mobile phones and social websites, which they leverage to engage children.

With the note provided by the mother of the teen, the police set up a sting operation, which led to the arrest.


Photo: photograsaur (Flickr)

Example 2: February 2012 – The FBI is advising families to be ever vigilant as sextortion cases have surfaced again in the Sacramento region in recent months.Scott Springer, the Acting Supervisory Special agent for the Cyber Squad of the Sacramento FBI office, cautions teenagers to exercise discretion on “chat” websites (such as Tumblr or Chatroulette) that can make you feel anonymous and free to say and do anything without repercussion.

“We have seen young people engaging in sexually exploitive poses in these environments because they feel it is safe to experiment; they feel anonymity is security,” Springer said. Unfortunately, the “anonymous” predators in these environments are gathering information and images to blackmail boys and girls into providing more explicit photos and images.”

  • 2.     How can we instill confidence in our children as cyber citizens?

a)     Make sure you have cyber safe rules that make sense to your kids.

b)    Review key concepts below associated with “confident” and “insecure” regarding your state of mind or world view values.

  • Confident  versus insecure states in the social network

Brave  vs.  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 just to fit in. 

Liberty vs. “ No limits” – Both can make you feel exhilarated, however liberty is the true freedom, and it has limits. Liberty involves being accountable to God, yourself, your family and friends to act according to your values of right and wrong. To be liberated, the individual exercises self-discipline in accordance with his or her own values and goals. Liberated individuals are less likely to be manipulated or intimidated by others because they have set healthy boundaries.

Freedom is often mis-understood as “no limits”. For example you have a right to free speech, but it is not okay to scream “fire!” in a crowded theatre because the well being of others is compromised. Similarly, it is not free speech to try to dominate others by cyberbullying.

Private vs. Secret – A very important distinction which can be obscured in the network.

Private is when you decide not to disclose information about yourself in order to be safe. Privacy involves discretion and is active boundary setting. In the social media, minors should have “private” settings for friends only. And for minors, it is important that they do not expect privacy from parents, whose duty is to ensure their safety. This is one of the top warnings of law enforcement.

A secret, on the other hand, is something that is determined cannot survive the light of day because it is not acceptable: i.e., exploitive, harmful or illegal. When a secret is kept, there is usually risky behavior involved and it is a source of tremendous anxiety.  Anything that is secret in the children’s on-line worlds is not okay. This is why transparency is one of the fundamentals for making cyber safe rules in your home.

Trust vs. Faith – Trust among people is always verifiable, while faith is reserved for God who does not require proof.  Too often children expect trust and privacy, which are dangerous – especially in their on-line worlds. When we put our faith in children to handle things without guidance, we leave them vulnerable to risky circumstances beyond their ability to respond with confidence.

This independence they seek is something that develops over time, in age-appropriate ways, in accordance with your house rules.


Photo: Eric Stever (Flickr)

Forgive  vs.  Excuse

Forgiveness  is a type of liberty – it is the act of letting go of the offense when someone has hurt you. It does not mean you excuse it; it means that you do not allow yourself to become emotionally bonded to the offense.

Forgiveness is empowerment.

The decision to forgive prevents you from becoming the victim.

To make excuses for offensive behavior is to somehow justify why bad behavior happened and if unchecked can wind up “enabling”, by condoning or reinforcing poor conduct.  In one cyberbullying case that led to the suicide of Phoebe Prince South Hadley, Mass., one mother excused her daughter’s participation in the harassment by saying “she was only calling her names.”

Often excusing is confused with forgiveness. In our children’s on-line worlds, forgiveness is important because there will undoubtedly be things said that are unkind, and holding on to hurt that keeps us from moving on and can wind up defining and limiting us. It is possible to forgive and hold others accountable for their bad behavior. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is the state of your heart and mind that makes all the difference.

Power  vs.  Abuse – True power involves self restraint and self discipline not to abuse it. People who abuse others are feeling powerless, and seek to feel like they are in control by dominating others.

Children who understand the difference between power and abuse, will be better equipped intellectually to deal with bullies on and off-line.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( 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.