The older they get…

A few years ago, I found myself in a surgeon’s office having a small lump removed from my leg. Not at all comfortable with needles or knives (especially when they involved me), my surgeon was chatting away as I waned between panic and attempted bravado. He talked about his 5 – yes, really- 5 teenagers and how he seemed to get dumber as they got older. I was really hoping his kids weren’t right since his scalpel was buried in the side of my leg. (I later found out he was (and is) a pretty amazing surgeon.) My oldest daughter was 10 at this point in my life, and I also found out that he was a pretty intuitive parent, because now that my kids are 15 and 11, it’s perceived that my IQ declines by at least 10 points each year. As a matter of fact, I’m not only dumb, but often embarrassing. I suppose that’s the perk of being a parent. And since I can’t resist another throwback to my own childhood in the 80’s, I, too, remember that I knew so much more than my parents when I was 13. “It’s called an answering machine, Dad, seriously, we are the only family that still doesn’t have one. It answers your phone when you aren’t home, so you know who called. Don’t you get that I have friends calling? And, a life?! ” We’ve come a long way since answering machines. I’m pretty sure my kids would look at me the same way they did when I showed them a record album if I asked them what an answering machine does. The reality today is that our kids are very digitally savvy. But, we can’t forget that they’re kids. They lack maturity and judgment, and they assume that we (as parents) lack knowledge. Their freedom of access to the online world combined with their maturity level and age can be a recipe for disaster- if we, as parents, aren’t digitally savvy right there with them. Thirty-five years ago, an answering machine was relatively harmless with the exception of the occasional prank message. In 2014, the way kids ‘leave messages’ looks a lot different. Reacting emotionally and/or dramatically aren’t uncommon for the maturity level of a tween or teen- but when hundreds are in the audience, that ‘answering machine’ message is witnessed by more than the unfortunate recipient aka cyber bullying. A few statistics from prove this: Cyber Bullying Statistics 2014

  • 25 percent of teenagers report that they have experienced bullying via their cell phone or on the internet.
  • Over half (52 percent) of young people report being cyber bullied.
  • Embarrassing or damaging photographs taken without the knowledge or consent of the subject has been reported by 11 percent of adolescents and teens.
  • Of the young people who reported cyber bullying incidents against them, one-third (33 percent) of them reported that their bullies issued online threats.
  • Often, both bullies and cyber bullies turn to hate speech to victimize their target. One-tenth of all middle school and high school students have been on the receiving end of ‘hate terms’ hurled against them.
  • Over half (55 percent) of all teens who use social media have witnessed outright bullying via that medium.
  • An astounding 95 percent of teens who witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior.
  • Victims of cyber bullying are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and to consider suicide as a result.

What can we learn from this? The importance of ‘Netiquette’. Can you limit your children’s’ access to computers or mobile devices? Sure. Can you ‘friend’ them and/or ‘follow’ them on every site you think they are on? Yep. Can you change a post about them that is unkind? Nope- that’s a problem. Can you talk to them about how to conduct themselves appropriately through social media? Definitely. Can you talk to them regularly and remind them that they can’t assume their posts or anyone else’s can be deleted? Absolutely. I think ultimately the “Golden Rule” is not outdated and should be something children are reminded often when they interact online. Treat others how you wish to be treated- both in person and online. More on Netiquette in my next post….I believe it’s as important as reminding your kiddos to say please and thank you.