Earlier this week, Yahoo News reported yet another incident of teen abuse of technology in Milwaukee that feeds the mistrust between parents and tech-savvy youth. According to the report posted by CBS58, two 14-year-old girls cut class with a 15-year old boy and live streamed sexual encounters via Facebook Live – while students in health class were watching.

The interesting problem with this headline is that digital natives, (the term I give youth born after 1990 who cannot imagine the world without the internet), seek and value the trust of their parents because they get a lot of fear and fakery in the social network. And by the same token, there is great confusion between trust and faith, and private and secret. Incidents like this create a crisis for the students who do not want to judge their peers, and struggle with the fact that they know this behavior is hurtful to the people involved and those watching. And the condemnation of these acts by adults discourages youth from seeking wise counsel when they encounter or witness this behavior.

And so when such incidents surface is important to first acknowledge that it is better that it comes out so the youth involved can get help, and secondly examine with your child the reasons why such behavior is not okay and why sexuality requires understanding what it means to give up power to the wrong thought, idea or belief and the consequences for such thoughts and actions. The good news about this sex live stream is that the sexual abuse these teens inflicted upon themselves can be addressed – for if it were secret, then there is greater risk of continued abuse.

Below are some tips for clarifying these key concepts so that you can focus on building trust despite what is happening in the headlines.

  • Brave versus risky. Both can make you feel discomfort. However, you are brave when you do the right thing even though you are afraid of displeasing your friends or being left out; while risky is ignoring your little voice warning  you that it’s not right or dangerous.
  • Private versus secret. A very important distinction which can be obscured in the network. Private is when you decide not to disclose information about yourself in order to be safe. Privacy involves discretion and is active boundary setting. In the social media, minors should have “private” settings for friends only. And for minors, it is important that they do not expect privacy from parents, who’s duty is to ensure their safety. This is one of the top warnings of law enforcement.
  • Trust versus faith. Trust among people is always verifiable, while faith is reserved for God who does not require proof. Too often children expect trust and privacy, which are dangerous in their on-line worlds. When we put our faith in children to handle things without guidance, we leave them vulnerable to risky circumstances beyond their ability to respond with confidence. The independence they seek is something that develops over time, in age-appropriate ways, in accordance with your house rules.

Mobile connectivity can easily seduce us into saying and doing things that are out of our true character. And when youth engage in such activities, the most important response we can offer is to remind them of who they are – as people who deserve to love and be loved, and treated with respect. No matter what has happened, we each have the power to change our mind and set a new course, standing corrected – to become a better version of ourselves. I believe this is the message of hope that youth need to hear from parents when their friends and peers mess up. Because then, they know that their own mis-deeds will be met with compassion and redirection, rather than condemnation. (John 20:23)


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).

Photo by: Christi Benz

Photo by: Christi Benz

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.