Friday, October 22, 2010

Sexting and Your Child

What is Sexting?  Is your child engaging in this activity online?  Most parents have at least heard of the term "sexting" which is used to describe a combination of the words "sex" and "text messaging" and describes the act of sending sexually provocative messages or visual images to and from cell phones and computers. While teens and pre-teens think the act of sending a flirtatious photo of themselves to their current love interest is fairly innocent they do not often think of the consequences associated with such behavior. The ability for the recipient to forward to a friend or even share with their entire online Social Network can be emotionally traumatizing for your child and even result in Legal allegations under the current jurisdiction.  

What can you do to help? Here are some basic guidelines:

Communicate - Be proactive and stay on top of your child's relationships and monitor their communications, particularly with online devices.  Have a conversation about appropriate communication and sexting to let them know that you are not naive to the world they live in.

Consequences - Make sure your child understands the cost of engaging in risky online communications. Show them examples of other kids that have experienced public embarrassment and legal consequences. 

Digital Citizenship - You child may have impeccable behavior in the "physical" world but it is important to impart to the rules online.  Anything that is posted or sent is indelible and can be shared virally and very quickly.  It's not like an incriminating note that is passed in class and can be ripped up to hide the evidence. 

Read more about the dangers of sexting and how to protect your child here 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? Here's How you Can Help..

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 40% of kids in the US say they’ve been bullied on the Internet. Cyberbullies are often kids that know your children so there is a connection to the physical world that makes cyberbullying a very real part of their existence. Cyberbullying can be detrimental to your child’s self-esteem and even lead to suicide

What can parents do to help their children?

Dr. Michelle Borba, parenting expert and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries put together eight ways to help your child through the experience of being cyberbullied so that they do not end up as a statistic.

  1. Keep an open dialogue with your child so they feel comfortable talking to you if something bad happens online.  Listen carefully regarding their online experiences.
  2. Let your child know you believe them and will not stop helping them until they feel safe.
  3. Do not promise your kid that you “won’t tell”.  You may need to step in.
  4. Save evidence.  Print out the messages and do not delete them.
  5. Set up a meeting with your child’s school guidance counselor and teacher.  Your child will need emotional support through this process.
  6. Create a “safety plan” for your child.  Who can your child go to if they don’t feel safe?  Find at least one adult staff member and one caring student that they can go to.
  7. Monitor your child’s emotional state closely.  If they show any signs of depression or suicide, get the help of a counselor or a trained mental health provider immediately.
  8. If your child’s safety is at stake or the cyber attackers are vicious, contact authorities.

For more information please read more of Dr Borba’s articles on Cyberbullying at her blog Reality Check