Raising a child is not a democratic vocation, and until the child is of legal age, the parents are responsible for their child’s behavior. So if your child is texting vicious lies or innuendoes, sending embarrassing or humiliating pictures or sexting especially of another person, then, you, the parent can be held liable. Aside from the moral issue, consider the financial aspects: All but five states have anti-bullying laws on the books, some very severe consequences for parents and child, if a text, sexting or posting on social networks, is traced to your child. Once a text or picture is posted, it cannot be deleted; and now there is sophisticated software to trace postings.
You might want to tell your child some facts of Internet life.
- That text, picture or posting is out there forever. It can land on anyone’s website----think pedophile.
- In a few years when being interviewed for scholarships, by professional sports’ scouts, or a job, or in a serious relationship, how embarrassing would it be to have a sexting, or vicious posting to show up on someone’s screen?
Parents must be role models for their children and address, define and enforce appropriate behavior. Your child is watching you! If you text, talk and drive, then it must okay, and that law does apply to me. If you talk nasty or post vicious comments, or send pictures of your body parts, why wouldn’t your child do the same thing? While I think it is vital to supervise cell phones and computers, I think we all should examine our own actions. Speak to, speak out, about bullying, especially cyber-bullying.
Establish rules for using cell phones and computers. Know the passwords for all the social networks and email accounts, and cell phones: monitor these sites for inappropriate postings, at least weekly. Impress the importance of never giving out personal information, or passwords to strangers over the Internet, especially that so-called new “friend” that may not be who is profiled. Talk with your children about the consequences of posting mean, vicious, embarrassing comments or lies about another person. If your child is the victim of a cyberbully, keep a log of each entry, then delete. Do not respond to it. Report the abuse to the host of the website. Most of the social networks have a link that will let you report abuse. If the victim knows who is doing it, although rarely is it evident who the perpetuator is, contact the school authorities (teacher, principal, superintendent), and if no one will take action, contact the police. Talk to teachers, school administration and PTA about having anti-bullying policies where the child signs a contract with the school; basically, I will not be a bully, nor will I tolerate bullying, and the school administration promises to be there to support and intervene for the bullied. Statistics show that violence is reduced by seventy-percent (70%) on campus.
This is an awesome age of technology, but technology does not define our values. So, before you hand over a cell phone or laptop to your child, talk about what is acceptable and not acceptable conduct regarding texting, sexting and posting. Having a computer and cell phone is a privilege, not a right: if there is inappropriate behavior, revoke the privilege.
We are a global community and we have a responsibility to raise our children to become decent human beings, and that starts from the cradle. Parents, family, schools and the community, have an obligation to protect children from the world at large, and themselves. Even more so, from each other. The bullying stops here, right now!