Social media is having a profound impact on our lives. Much of it is positive, but there is clearly a dark side that many of us experience every day. The truth is, some people say things on social media that they would never say in person. What impact does that have on our kids? Little footprints in the sand usually follow larger ones, so watch where you step.
Let me introduce you to Sue Scheff. Sue is a nationally recognized author, parent advocate, and family Internet safety expert. Her new book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, will be released October 2017. I’ve had the opportunity to read an advance copy and I strongly endorse it. The book is outstanding! It will navigate you through the perils of the cyberworld, such as hateful speech, public shaming, and online bullying. We’ll be posting an excerpt from her book next month. Stay tuned.
It is important to mention that I do not accept, nor did I receive, any benefit for my endorsement. My sole purpose for publishing this piece is to share a valuable resource with you. –– Frank Sonnenberg
CyberParenting: Are Your Actions Helping Or Hurting Your Kids?
By Sue Scheff
It might be something you say off-the-cuff while you’re driving or cooking. It may even be the way you greet a waitress or hold the door for someone behind you…your children are watching and listening to you.
If you mention something ugly about a neighbor or another parent while you’re on your cell phone or even online, again, your kids are monitoring your behavior.
Does this give them a pass to act the same way toward their friends?
Mind your words.
You may think your words are innocent. In fact, you might not even think twice about what you say. But to a child who looks up to you, your actions can encourage them to behave the same way.
“Did you see Mrs. Smith’s dress? What was she thinking? The color didn’t flatter her at all.”
Although that may sound harmless, it could be taken totally out of context if your child goes over to Mrs. Smith’s home and says, “My mommy thinks your dress is ugly.” Let’s face it, that’s how kids can interpret things.
Social media can have greater consequences when it comes to teenagers.
Parents today are clearly oversharing information about their children. The term for it is sharenting. As a matter of fact, in a 2015 PEW Survey, 88% of teens believe people share too much information on social media.
Brace yourself for a study that revealed one in five parents admit to sharing intimate photos and/or messages online or via text.
With our divorce rates climbing, revenge porn is on the rise, not to mention the mishap of images being hacked or stolen. How would your kids feel to see their parent’s sexual images in cyberspace?
As we read about sexting scandals and slut pages in schools across the country, it’s extremely important to discuss the consequences of sharing sexual images. The risks can be serious and, in point of fact, some states have criminal charges that can be brought against you and your teenager. Not to mention the emotional stress caused to your teenager when nudes go viral.
According to research, cyberbullying on social media is linked to depression in teenagers.
New data released by the National Center for Health Statistics reported that suicide among young girls between the ages of 15 and 19 has reached an all-time high and rose more than 30% among teen boys. In fact, bullying causes part of the spike in deaths by suicide.
Cyberbullying is not new; 66% of adults have witnessed online harassment, while 41% of them have been victims of it. “Why is this upsetting when it comes to grownups?” you ask. We should know better. Shouldn’t we be role models?
Seventy percent of young people ages 18 to 29 have experienced online abuse, while 34% of teens have been cyberbullied. Cyber-shaming, no matter what age you are, can leave emotional scars that last a lifetime.
Sadly, many teens don’t tell their parents or another adult when they are struggling with cyberbullying. Instead, they continue to suffer in silence—which isn’t healthy for anyone.
Breaking through the shame.
Why do youth remain quiet?
Many kids feel embarrassed or ashamed when they’re bullied. They believe it’s their fault and their parents will blame them. They also fear getting punished and disconnected from their lifeline, the Internet. The fact is, panicking and punishing a child for something they have no control over won’t help anyone.
Becoming a CyberParent is part of parenting today. From the moment you give your toddler your cell phone, while you’re trying to get ready or to keep them entertained, you are prepping them for their tech-future.
Digital citizenship and literacy starts as soon as kids start talking. Short chats are better than no chats at all.
Kindness, respect, integrity…offline behavior blends into online behavior.
Everything we do online and offline has consequences. Who you select as your cyber-friends is a reflection of who you are. What you LIKE is the same as what you endorse. Today there is a blurred line between reality and virtual presence. From colleges to employers to even relationships, your digital résumé can dictate your future.
Your online behavior will reflect your offline character, and vice versa.
You are your child’s role model—lead by example. Your child will mimic the good and the not so good.
Takeaway tips for parents:
- Be mindful of what you post. Be responsible and respectful.
- Have frequent chats with your children about cyber-life. Go online with them.
- Allow your kids to teach you about technology (new apps). You will be surprised how much there is to learn.
- There’s nothing wrong with a digital detox. You can’t expect your kids to unplug if you don’t.
Sue Scheff is a nationally recognized author and parent and family online safety advocate. Her upcoming book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, to be released October 2017, will help guide readers of all ages in preventing, surviving, and overcoming digital disasters such as online shaming and cyberbullying.
How Do You Feel About CyberParenting?
Please leave a comment and tell us what you think or share it with someone who can benefit from the information.