Cyber Safety Tips for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish Family Morning Show

Texting is the main artery of communication for teens who can be very clever about using acronyms to keep parents in the dark about what is going on. And while it is natural to seek independence from parents during adolescence, the internet connectivity exposes youth to ideas and beliefs that introduce new levels of risk (think: sexting, drug and alcohol abuse, and bullying). Recent headlines on CNN and other news stations feature some of the most current texting lingo a parent might find on their teen’s mobile phone, assuming that is that they are checking the device to monitor communications. Many of the codes refer to keeping secrets from parents, others involve gratuitous sex, drugs or alcohol. They include:

  • KPC- Keeping parents clueless
  • CD9 – Parents around/Code 9
  • PIR – Parent in Room
  • POS – Parent over Shoulder
  • (L)MIRL – Let’s meet in real life
  • 8 – oral sex
  • Broken – hung over from alcohol

See the entire list at the CNN post.

So in order to provide protective cover for the teen who may be confused between trust (which is always verifiable among people) and privacy (which is private stuff you keep from the world not from your parents), parents need to position themselves as trusted resource to help teens learn how to be in control and resist attempts to manipulate and dupe them into giving up personal security by engaging in conversations and conduct that is exploitative or addictive. In this way you can stay current with the texting codes. This means that your teen should expect random checks on cyber communications.

Tips to foster open communication

Treat your child like an expert. Give your child credit for being the expert on their own childhood and “teenhood” experience. Their experiences are informing them radically differently than that of your own. Do not enter into conversations assuming you know what they are dealing with. Until your teen shares what is on their heart and mind, using their own words – you as the parent have no understanding and thereby no genuine standing to impart wisdom.

Establish that your expertise as the guardian. As the guardian, your primary objective is to help your child learn how to protect their personal security through boundary-setting and open communication about what is happening on and off line. Your life experience and your teen’s tech savvy capabilities can be viewed as a collaboration of sorts. You have wisdom to impart, especially about relationships and personal security, and your child can keep you informed about the apps and peer dynamics in their cyber-powered community.

Trust and transparency. Internet connectivity, much like the use of the car, is a privilege not a right. This means that parents inspect what they expect. “I expect you are making good decisions for the most part,” you can tell your teen, “And I expect you will have teenage challenges that require wise counsel. I am your wise counsel.” And because there is no privacy in the internet, you can explain that private is personal stuff you keep from the world because not everybody is trustworthy. As the guardian, you will respect your child’s privacy by not blabbing their personal business without permission, and you will not attempt to micro-manage and offer your opinions because of the things you know about them.

Be the trustworthy parent. Establish trust with your teen by being the parent who has a heart at peace and responds to disturbing things with mercy and grace. For example if your daughter is caught sexting and is being cyber-bullied see below:

Pathos: what is your personal reaction? (Check all that apply):
____Disappointment
____Fright/Anger
____Sadness
____Shame (what will the neighbors think?)
____Compassion (you can think of something you have done in your past that caused humiliation)

Which reactions do you believe will inspire your child to hide and keep secrets? Which reactions do you believe will inspire your child to be in your presence and seek your wisdom and guidance?

Ethos: what initial action do you take (check all that apply):
_____Document the cyber communications (if your child is being victimized)
_____Call the police
_____Call the school principal
_____Sit with your child and assure her/him everything will be alright
_____Get your child talking about what happened and simply listen
_____Express your sorrow for her situation
_____Ask your child what (s)he thinks should happen next
_____Administer consequences at home

Logos: what is the content and reasoning of your message? (check all that apply)
____Embrace failure and consequences from poor decisions as lessons
____You are smarter than this. I expected more from you because…
____I don’t have confidence in you when…(describe out of character decisions/acts)
____I will stand by you as you experience these consequences because…
____You are not a criminal or a victim. You are human and you can choose to stand corrected. I hope you make that choice.
____While I am disappointed in your choice, nothing you do will stop me from loving you
____Tell me what happened; I want to help you learn from this and get your life back on track

Clean slate rule. It is important that you do not keep rubbing mistakes in your child’s face. Once they have experienced the consequence, then wipe the slate clean. If a pattern of behavior out of character with your family values continues, then you will want to see about getting counseling help to understand what is going on and help your child stand corrected. The main thing is to communicate discipline with a heart at peace, not anger. When you communicate discipline with anger, the signal of your message inspires is shame which kills open communication and the lesson the child learns is that the crime is to get caught.

For more about creating a family culture characterized by open communication and individual resilience, go to: Fresh Start.

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Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her cyber mom, Joanna Jullien. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her cyber mom, Joanna Jullien. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

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.

Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and spiritual resilience. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.