As an Internet Safety Expert and presenter – this is the most common question I get from parents. Generally speaking, their child is pestering them for a phone because EVERYONE else has one. The trouble is that your child is probably not exaggerating. So what should you do? In most cases you need to say NO.
And if she keeps bugging you, pour yourself a glass of wine and watch my video again. I’m here for you!! Stay strong parents. Say no!!
Read more from the Internet Safety Blog
- VIDEO: Internet Safety: Before you buy your child a digital device – think safety
- VIDEO: Internet Safety Expert : Jesse Weinberger on WKYC-Cleveland to Discuss Cyberbullying and Internet Safety
- Internet Safety: Best Parenting Practices to Keep Children, Tweens, and Teens Safe in the Digital World
- Internet Safety for Parents: Being proactive is the only defense for your tweens, teens, and family
- Parents of teens WAKE UP! Fake Facebook account contributes to the abduction and murder of 15 year old Nichole Cable in Maine
- Entire High School Football Team Gets Suspended Because of Cyberbullying on Ask.fm
- A Cleveland Teen is Murdered After a Facebook Argument – aka Internet Safety Basics: DON’T Feed the Trolls
- California Senate Bill 568: The “Eraser Bill” Will Accidentally Hurt the Cause of Internet Safety
- Adults and Kids: Stop Being Stupid. The “Gonna-Be” Posts Are Going To Get You: Robbed, Kidnapped, Assaulted
Jesse Weinberger is an Internet Safety Expert, digital strategist, instructor, and the owner of OvernightGeek University. Weinberger has created an online course for parents and families called Internet Safety for Families.
She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to navigate online and mobile risks since 2003. Jesse is available for presentations to schools, parents, students, and organizations. Email for more information
Another day, another cyberbullying, online safety tragedy. This one happened early September 2013 when a beautiful 12 year old – Rebecca Sedwick, committed suicide in Lakeland Florida. She had been the victim of relentless IRL (in real life) and online cyberbullying.
Apparently she dated the wrong girl’s boyfriend. Fourteen year old Guadalupe Shaw bullied Rebecca relentlessly along with FOURTEEN other girls. That’s right, Shaw convinced fourteen other girls to team up against Rebecca. If the mob didn’t comply, they would face the wrath of being bullied themselves. Nice, huh?
The online platforms of choice were: Facebook, Kik, and Ask.fm. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you already know how I feel about Ask.fm. And it bears repeating now: Your child (regardless of age) should never, never, never, never have an Ask.fm profile – ever. Is that clear enough for you?
Consequences? What are those?
And here’s something else which is utterly shocking to me. After Rebecca committed suicide (by jumping off a concrete silo), and after Guadalupe (the alleged ringleader) posted on her Facebook page: “Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca and she killed her self but IDGAF [I don’t give a (f***)], and after Guadalupe was questioned by the police and after she readily admitted to bullying Rebecca….Guadalupe’s parents allowed Guadalupe to keep her phone. Huh?
“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”
Trust, verify (rinse, repeat)
Let me speak very plainly (!!):
- If as a parent, you are not actively checking which platforms, people, games, and content your child is involved with – you are complicit in the outcome
- If as a parent, you do not create and deliver consequences consistently to your children – you are complicit in the outcome
- If as a parent, you do not educate yourself in HOW to help your child stay safe as well as HOW to prevent brewing your own little Frankenstein-bully – you are complicit in the outcome
- If you are expecting gaming companies and media companies to do your parenting job for you – you are complicit in the outcome
How young is too young?
If you have recently spent any time around a 14 or 15 year old, you will quickly come to the conclusion that young teens are merely taller, hairier 3 year olds. They bounce from topic to topic and app to app looking to engage, or hide – or whatever their impulse du jour is. And this is developmentally appropriate. They are supposed to act like tall, hairy 3 year olds.
Children are still children until they are well into their high school years. They do not have the physical/cognitive/emotional/social maturity which 24-7 connectivity demands. Those skills develop with time and experience.
But it’s hard – blah blah
I recognize that it’s hard to be a parent in the 21st century. And there’s a lot to learn – all the time. I teach Internet Safety for a living and I am constantly learning the new and nauseating ways children get themselves into trouble. But you have *no choice* as a parent.
Actually that’s not true; you actually have two choices: 1. Don’t give a device to your child or 2. Give a device to your child and engage in the education and monitoring process.
There is no third choice. Sorry.
Jesse Weinberger is an Internet Safety Expert, digital strategist, instructor, and the owner of OvernightGeek University. Weinberger has created an online course for parents and families called Internet Safety for Families. She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to navigate online and mobile risks for over 10 years. Learn how to keep your children safe online at www.OvernightGeekUniversity.com
These are the stories that make me want to shake every single parent that I know and scream WAKE UP!!
Nichole Cable was a lovely 15 year old from Maine. The night before she was abducted and murdered, Nichole complained to her boyfriend that a man named Kyle Dube groped and physically assaulted her. She was able to get away.
But here’s what she didn’t know. Kyle Dube created a fake Facebook account and had been communicating with Nichole under a different name. Nichole did NOT know that the man she thought she was communicating on Facebook was actually Kyle Dube.
Nichole unwittingly set a date and time to meet Dube’s alter ego at the end of the driveway of her own home. Apparently this “other person” promised Nichole free marijuana. Nichole walked down to the end of the driveway where Dube jumped out of the woods wearing a mask.
Nichole didn’t make it out alive. Soul achingly sad.
Wake up parents of tweens and teens
We have no idea what this poor child’s parents are going through. We have no idea if they warned this lovely young woman about risky online behaviors. The point is moot. She’s gone. But we have the opportunity, as parents, to learn from this story- right here, right now.
In the 10 years I’ve taught Internet Safety to parents, children, and school districts I’ve explained the risks ad nauseum. Some kids get it – some parents get it – some schools get it. A great many do not let it sink in: this can be you, this IS you.
So what can YOU do to keep your children and families safe?
- get educated so you can educate your children
- tell your children (until your tongue falls out) that they should NEVER EVER EVER meet someone in person who they have only met online because you have NO IDEA who you are really speaking with. Terribly sad case in point
- children should NEVER give out their personal information online (location, age, school district, etc)
- and the most obvious: children should NEVER “friend” someone online who they don’t know in real life
Say it, say it again, and then repeat.
If you feel like a CD stuck on repeat, then you’ll be doing this the right way. We’ve given children devices and walked away. We’ve assumed that a 15 year old girl (or 10 year old boy, or 19 year old woman) will have the sense to not be gullible or stupid.
They can’t – they don’t have the life experience to discern risky from cool, or skeptical from impolite.
The worst part about this story is that it is not the first and certainly will not be the last. Criminals and those who wish to do us harm will use whatever tools are at their disposal to carry out their plans. We have to be smart enough to be on the defensive and teach our children how to do the same.