Christmas time introduces cyber safety concerns for parents whose children are receiving various internet-enabled devices as gifts. And we know that internet connectivity exposes children to adult issues including bullying and exploitation (sexual as well as commercial), so our children must be educated about their own capacity to recognize a lie or a manipulation when they encounter it and respond with confidence. For the most part, cyber safety is a matter of learning how not to engage with or agree with something that disturbs your peace. Accordingly, a post on WebMD featured the top four internet risks for kids. The risks include:
Cyberbullying (For tips to work with school administration on a persistent bully situation, go to BRAVE Society)
These are the threats of internet connectivity that also bring about opportunities to strengthen communication and build trust with your child. There are rich blessings for those who decide to educate their child about faith as an executive movement within, to be free from undue influence starting with the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: every human being, including children, have a God-given power over their own intellect and will; this is power that can never be taken but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device.
Responding to the consequences of child predators, cyberbullies, porn, and reputation damage is sadly becoming a new norm. If your child has not directly experienced any of these threats, they will likely witness someone suffering from the consequences – which can also be perceived as traumatic, especially if it is a friend who is affected. Now more than ever effective parenting requires communicating the spiritual wisdom of their chosen faith so that youth can learn to stand their ground about their identity as a child born to love and be loved. The network culture that can easily convince them of things that are not true and to focus on things that don’t really matter and we know that when we stand for nothing, we fall for anything. It is the human condition.
The tips below offer ways to strengthen bonds with children through family conversations about setting cyber-safe standards of conduct at home as empowerment of the individual and balancing the security of every individual with the family.
Cyber safety conversation tips
Clarify trust and faith. Open communication is essential, and it requires mutual trust. Trust is easily confused with faith as kids can believe that they need privacy from parents with their mobile devices. Be clear about the trust you are building with your child. Trust among people is always verifiable, while faith we reserve for God who requires no proof. In this way, your house rules for cyber-safe conduct are geared around the expectation that transparency is mandatory. No secrets, no surprises. Explain that while you respect their privacy (in that you will not share personal information carelessly) you will not grant them privacy because you have a duty to provide protective cover for their personal security and for imparting wisdom. Your job is to teach your child how not to give up power to the bully, drug or device.
Clean slate rule. Youth need to know from experience that unconditional love means that you will not reject them or condemn them if they do fall into a risky trap. Child predators are counting on shame to keep the kids from revealing their sinister exploitative manipulations on your child. Keep in mind that as parents we have authority to govern the home and educate the child about the love of God and how to live a good life with a mindset governed by forgiveness and grace, not crime and punishment. When we explain to our children that we expect that they can always choose to change their course in life by agreeing with what God says about them – which is that they have been given a Spirit of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7). Do not keep reminding your child of past mistakes or poor choices. They need to know they have hope for standing corrected after experiencing a negative consequence. Without the clean slate, we are nurturing shame. Our aim must be to help our children stand corrected – this means they need to learn how to shed shame, and make a choice to learn from the experience and become a better version of themselves.
Confronting the lies. In the social network and in the world, a lie can become a real experience that murders the truth – if we allow it in our own mind (John 8:44). The resilience of our spiritual wisdom, starting with the God-given ability to think for yourself, we must decide what to believe. We can choose to agree with the experiences that disturb our peace, or we can declare the truth, which the thoughts that come from the heart of God who brings about peace and empower others.
Setting aside the shame. Children can experience shame from something untrue circulated about them. Learning how to stand corrected then is a critical life skill for the modern child that comes from the spiritual resilience of our chosen faith. For example, if your child has sent sexually explicit photos of herself to a love interest, and now she is being bullied, does that mean she is a “slut”? The truth is that depends. It depends upon what you think and more importantly, it depends upon what your daughter thinks regardless what has happened. By our chosen faith, we have the ability to repent, to accept withstand negative consequences (stand corrected) and change the direction of our lives and rise above the undue influences, i.e., those thoughts that inspire actions that disturb the peace and hurt the soul.
The job of the parent in a hyper-connected world is to express this resilience (choosing to agree with what God says about our children and their future – Jeremiah 29:11) that is the hope for learning how to love one another fearlessly as God does, and continually strive to become better versions of ourselves.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.
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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.