In the physical and cyber realms, kids can get into trouble by ignoring their inner voice and simply go along in order to get along. Examples include, presenting images in social media that grandma would find questionable (clothing, poses and expression) in order to get more likes and “fit in”; allowing cyberbullying of another without saying or doing anything to help; and believing that the voice behind the photo of a stranger is safe because he is making you feel important, valued and appreciated.
These types of cyber risks happen when kids act out of character; they lose their sense of identity as a child who was born to love and be loved. For girls especially, recognizing their true identity as magnificent daughters is more challenging today with the crush of internet-powered images that sexualize children at young ages.
See related reading: Sexualizing girls in the network: Recover the true identity of your daughter
Last month’s Newsweek cover featured the sexualization of girls in a cover story called “Sex and the single tween” that explored how the modern 11 and 12-year old girl is consumed with sex and sexuality. The feature offers up the sexualization of toys, like My Little Pony and CandyLand, and Halloween costumes that can easily condition girls to focus early and obsessively about sex and sexuality.
Linda Grondona is a Real Estate Agent serving Granite Bay, California. She has three daughters, two of whom are young adults and one teenager. She wants every girl to know they are not sex objects, even though there is enormous network pressure to become one. “We have a tendency to focus on the symptoms, rather than getting to the root of the problem,” she said. “Girls don’t necessarily know their true identity.”
Grondona is concerned that when we focus on a girl’s sexually provocative behavior issues that stem from not knowing who they really are, we can create more problems driving girls further into the snare of exploitation as they are in pursuit of validation, love and affection.
According to Grondona, there is a balance to strike with our girls. We shouldn’t shield them from too much, and we also need to make an effort to reveal what they know in ways that reinforce their identity as a child of God.
“We need to approach our daughters with a heart of forgiveness and a genuine interest to know what is going through their mind that makes them believe it is okay to be promiscuous,” she said. “Our daughters must be validated at home first.”
How can kids know who they are?
Children can be clear about their identity starting with the trustworthy elements of God’s character expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (patient, kind, not jealous, endures all things – or forgiving). These qualities in an individual may also be expressed as values in your own home. In this regard, we can get kids talking about becoming like the people they want to attract into their lives. In this way, we can help them understand that the world does not define them, when it is easy to believe it is the other way around.
The other aspect of their identity, which is hyped in the social media, includes personality, opinions, preferences, hobbies, and sense of style – the stuff that makes up the ingredients on an Instagram or Facebook profile. The challenge is to not allow these secondary aspects of our identity to take priority over the values of a person who chooses to be rooted in the character of God’s love (1 Cor. 13).
This is where the concept of integrity enables kids to be their true selves.
Tips for parents:
- Explain integrity as being your true self in all circumstances. This is authenticity. People who change how they look and behave in ways that would cause their moms or grandmothers worry and concern, do not have integrity and are not being authentic.
- Having conversations about your beliefs (such as God grants wisdom to a sincere heart – James 1:5) and values (such as kindness, compassion, honesty, etc.) help your children more firmly identity with those aspects of their identity.
- Explain that when you are being your “true self”, you are at peace. But when you are conforming to the world or worrying about conforming to the world, there is a discomfort, a little voice, a knot in the stomach warning you that you are off track. By acknowledging this internal compass, (your core values), then it is easier to say “yes” to the people and activities that are trustworthy, and “no” to the things that are risky and may lead to being bullied, falling into addiction or becoming exploited.
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. 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
- Like Banana Moments
- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
- Sign up to receive Banana Moments quarterly and monthly updates
- Email: Jullien@surewest.net