The number one reason why parents should not grant privacy to their cyber-powered tweens and teens: Without parental guidance and wisdom in critical private moments, cyber-powered peer communities can become a single point of reference for life. The world convinces parents and youth that kids need, or have a right to privacy from their parents. And yet nothing could be further from the truth. What children require is for parents to provide protective cover and instruction about life – which means that you must know your child’s business. When privacy is granted and the parent yields their inherent authority to govern the home and provide instruction and guidance on all matters of a child’s life lessons, the child is at risk of falling into traps of bondage that are the adult issues: bullying, addiction, exploitation, anxiety and depression. These adult issues inspire shame which cause kids to hide or keep secrets from parents, which is easy to do with technology.
Cyber connectivity can easily convince us to believe that everything we think we need to know we can learn from cyber communities and Google – and the role of the parent to impart wisdom is pushed to the side. Many parents express concern that if they monitor their child’s cyber communications or their personal business in general, that it will hurt their relationship by offending the child. In this regard, there is great confusion between trust (which is always verifiable among people) and faith (which requires no proof and is reserved for God), as children and teens have come to perceive that granting privacy is the same thing as being trustworthy, which makes them feel loved, or validated.
Over the past decade since mobile connectivity landed in the hands of youth, some of the consequences of this cultural shift away from parental guidance as the primary instructive and authoritative influence in the lives of youth are evidenced in the headlines about youth suicide, violence, bullying. As youth become more worldly and confident of their own cyber-powered knowledge base, and as parents find their children leaping ahead with tech savvy lifestyles, the generation gap has evolved into a digital chasm wherein children are at greater risk of feeling an isolation that inspires anxiety, depression and hopelessness. By the same token, parents lack confidence in their capacity to lead children in matters of the heart and mind. There is a greater disconnect from truth, as cyber-powered communities become a single point of reference for life isolating the child from the security of parent and family relationships.
You can respect privacy, without granting privacy
The number one thing that law enforcement will tell you is essential to protect children from cyber dangers is open communication – which is not possible when you grant children privacy. When you grant children privacy, you are essentially treating them like a peer, when they need a leader; someone to impart wisdom in moments of joy, crisis, pain or doubt and provide guidance for personal security. The trick is to respect not grant your child’s privacy. Here are some tips:
- Explain that transparency is mandatory because secrets harbor risks, which can lead to suffering and bondage (think pedophiles, bullies and addictions).
- As the parent, you inspect what you expect. Your expectations are that your child will be acting her age, and dealing with age-appropriate issues. This means that you must monitor randomly all their communications to ensure that age-inappropriate circumstances do not present undue influence (sexual and exploitative or hostile). For example, a child trying to handle the humiliation of being cyberbullied on their own may conclude there is no point in living and commit suicide.
- To respect your child’s privacy, do not share things you know about their personal business without permission or serious good reason (such as a need to involve a professional for example).
- Do not offer your opinion on everything that you see or witness happening with your child’s friendships and interactions. If you discover a behavior or post that requires correction, be sure to correct your child off-line, and tie it to your family values. Ask open ended questions to get your child thinking for himself about whether a communication or act reflects the best version of himself, and give him a chance to make a correction if necessary.
- After correction, always give your child a clean slate. Do not keep reminding your child of past mistakes. It signals a hopeless lack of confidence in your child which can also invoke shame – and kills communication. It is easy for kids to hide things from parents, so it is better to create an environment where it is possible to be redeemed after consequences and correction for choices.
It is possible to build a family culture that promotes trust, open communication and individual resilience.
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.