This week I spent 2 full days teaching middle schoolers at Brady Middle School (part of the Orange City Schools) in Orange, Ohio. It was a total of twelve 50 minute sessions delivered in back-to-back-to-back rapid fire method. It was a total blast.
The kids at Brady Middle are hilarious. In my most popular internet safety presentation for upper-school students – “Don’t Be A Sheep“ – we begin with media literacy. We ask questions like “If Abercrombie and Fitch sell clothing why are their ads always filled with primarily naked models?”. We learned that if you are a young man who wears Axe™ body spray, that half-naked angels will come hurtling across the cosmos just to smell you. And that if you are a young lady, most “vomit magazines” presume that your only role in life is to find a man and only by wielding your perfect body/hair/nails/face/clothing you will keep him.
The Brady Middle kids did not miss a beat. We collectively laughed our faces off at what mass media would have us believe and agreed that we would no longer “be sheep” at the media messages being forced down our throats.
But what about other influences and threats? I told them that their generation of children are being “hyper-sexualized”. When I asked them what they thought that meant, hilarity ensued. I can’t share most of the comments here, but I CAN tell you what it does NOT mean:
- having sex really, really fast
- having cyber-sex (kudos to the kid who knew this was even a thing)
- being “hyper” while you have sex
- “extreme” sex – (note: I think this young man was referring to some variation of “extreme sports” but I did not feel brave enough to ask)
They agreed that they have access to, and consume significant amounts of sexualized content – some their parents know about, most they don’t know about.
We moved on to cyberbullying, sexual predation, and sexting. We talked about the people in the world who would do them harm – including the boogeyman in the night as well as potentially their own classmates. The conversations were open and very, very frank. I told them my ultimate goal was to make someone vomit. I came close.
I shared with them my ‘Big Mama’ directives which are non-negotiable:
- get rid of Ask.fm and SnapChat altogether – no exceptions
- get rid of Kik
- lock down their Twitter and Instagram profiles to PRIVATE
- remove ‘location services’ from their devices
- put a post it note over webcams on all devices (including tablets and gaming systems)
- never post “gonna-be” content – (posting in advance where you’re ‘gonna be’)
- never, ever take photos of your junk (it’s a felony)
- never, ever ask anyone ELSE to take a photo of their junk (it’s a felony)
- if mom has to remind you to wash said junk, no one wants to see a photo of it anyhow – seriously
In the final analysis I found the students willing to have the conversation. They were open, and witty, and smart – even as they do dopey things and stumble through middle school.
Thank you kiddos of BMS, you made my job much easier just by being who you are. And remember what I said, if BMS administrators have to call me back for any reason, I will NOT be a happy camper. Do the right thing – and Don’t Be A Sheep.
Parents – you’re next…..the parent version will be held on March 4, 2104. In the meantime, you can read these internet safety tips for parents….stay tuned.
Special thanks to:
- Orange City Schools and Brady Middle School (BMS Twitter) and (Facebook)
- Principal Brian Frank and Asst. Principal Darla Wagner, as well as the entire tech and guidance staff who spent two days running in and out of that room to make sure it all went well. I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism, organization, and dedicated of your entire team. Well done!
- Orange PTA especially Lisa Goodman ,Wendy Blaszak, and Tracy Russo (as well as the general Orange PTA team)
Read more from the Internet Safety Blog
- An Open Letter to Teens Who Use Ask.fm; Read, Post, & Share
- 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 "Big Mama" Weinberger is an Internet Safety Speaker for schools, the host of the Internet Safety Podcast: Big Mama's House Podcast, and the author of The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s In Your Child’s Back Pocket; a guide for parents and educators on how to keep children safe in a 24-7 always connected digital society. Learn more about how to keep your children safe online. She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to navigate online and mobile risks since 2003. Jesse is available for internet safety presentations to schools, parents, students, and organizations all over the United States.