Teens and Internet Gossip

TeenCyberbullyingSocial media sites such as Ask.fm have been in the news lately and the headlines are not ones that parents would one to hear about their teens.  Gossip, whether online or off, can be cruel and harmful to others, especially when a person is already struggling with self-esteem issues.

“Sure enough, I had a parent come to my door and say, ‘Your daughter has been saying some rather nasty things about my daughter on this website.’”

– Patti, Mother

High school students have always spread gossip in the halls, on the walls and on the phone.  Now, it’s on the Internet, too.  On various message boards specific to communities around the country, kids write about whom they hate, whom they think is pregnant or has an STD and record other often hurtful rumors that may or may not be true.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica remembers once when some kids at her school wrote cruel things about her on the Web.

“They were just making fun of me,” she says.  “You know, she’s really ugly, she’s this, she’s that, ba-ba-ba.”

Jessica’s 11-year-old sister, Emma, admits she’s used the Web to write nasty things about another girl, though she regrets it now.

“After a while, you’re like, how could I have been so mean?  Like, why did I do that?” she says.

The other girl’s father eventually became so frustrated with what Emma had said that he came to her door and demanded her mother make her stop.

Experts say gossip on the Internet can be more harmful than the old-fashioned kind.  It’s often anonymous because kids use fake screen names.  It has the power of the written word, so it lasts longer and is taken more seriously.  And, unlikely ugly words on the bathroom wall, there’s no way to scratch it out.

“Online gossip is to hearsay gossip probably what nukes are to dynamite,” says Dr. Ramah Commanday, a school psychologist.  “It can get EXTREMELY raunchy.”

If your kids are victims of online gossip, Dr. Commanday suggests putting the gossip into perspective.

“Point out to them how what’s being said on the screen differs from what everyone knows about you as a person,” Dr. Commanday says.

You can also try what worked for Emma:  Keep your kids off the offensive website!

“When she was using it all the time, her name was on there all the time.  People were writing things about her,” explains Patti Thrift, Emma’s mother.  “Since she has no longer had access to that, she’s no longer a topic of conversation.”

Experts say that any time your child is on the Internet, you should know what he or she is doing there.  Online gossip is just another reason why.

Tips for Parents

Most of us remember passing notes during class or swapping stories over lunch with our friends in middle and high school.  But with more teens accessing the Internet these days, it appears that gossip has gone high-tech.  Teens are using message boards, instant messaging and even email to air out their frustrations – often in hurtful language – about their teachers and peers.

According to an Internet Report from the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, 97% of kids aged 12 to 18 access the Internet on a regular basis.  What they’re doing on the Internet, however, may be surprising.  The U.S. Department of Justice reports that approximately one in every 17 kids is threatened or harassed while using the Internet.  In fact, most don’t tell their parents or other adults, and if they do, the adults often don’t know how to stop the online teasing.

Gossiping, whether it’s in the halls or on a message board, more often than not leads to hurt feelings.  According to the Nemours Foundation, if teens spend enough time gossiping and passing on stories they don’t know are true, eventually no one will believe anything they say, even when it is the truth.  Teens who gossip shouldn’t expect to be trusted ever again.  Once friends learn that a peer can’t resist spreading secrets around, they won’t tell him or her anything personal.  And if a teen gossips about personal or important issues, he or she could even end up in trouble at school and at home.  Teachers don’t appreciate students who make it tough for other students to learn, and parents won’t be happy to hear that their child is causing trouble in school.

If you’ve heard your teen taking teasing and gossiping to a hurtful level, it’s time to remedy the situation.  The experts at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota offer the following advice for curbing your teen’s gossiping and teasing:

  • Cultivate your teen’s compassion.  Talk to him or her about feelings – how emotional blows can hurt as much as physical ones.  “You wouldn’t throw a rock at that boy, would you?  So you shouldn’t call him a ‘zit-face’ either.”
  • Give your teen a simple test he or she can use to judge if his or her teasing is playful or hurtful:  “How would I feel if someone said this about me?”
  • Talk to your teen about the when and where of playful teasing.  He or she shouldn’t always resort to sarcasm or jokes at someone else’s expense in order to get a laugh.
  • Examine your own behavior and that of other family members.  Do you rib your children at length, even after they plead with you to stop?  Do you tease inappropriately, that is, about the way people look or the habits they have?  Are you confusing razzing with teaching and discipline – for instance, do you communicate your frustration about your teen’s messy room by calling him “Mr. Slob”?  Make sure that your own teasing (and that of everyone else in your household) is good-natured, not aggressive or manipulative.

As a parent, it is also important to regulate how your teen uses the Internet.  If you know what your teen is doing while online, you can better prevent him or her from visiting message boards where the temptation to gossip exists.  The Media Awareness Network suggests considering the following questions concerning how your teen surfs the Net:

  • Are you involved in your teen’s online activities?  Do you know what he or she is doing and whom your teen is talking to when he or she is on the Internet?
  • Does your family have a set of rules or an agreement for appropriate Internet use?
  • Do you make Internet use a family activity by guiding your teen to good sites and teaching him or her how to do safe, effective searches?
  • Have you taught your teen not to believe everything he or she reads online and to check online information with an adult or with another source?
  • If your teen has her or his own website, have you checked to make sure it doesn’t contain harmful or hurtful information?
  • Have you talked to your teen about responsible online behavior?  Does he or she understand that making threats or harassing others online can be considered illegal activities?

References

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
  • Media Awareness Network
  • Nemours Foundation
  • UCLA Center for Communication Policy
  • U.S. Department of Justice
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Is Your Child a Bully? 6 Warning Signs

Nobody likes a bully.

And it seems like bullying is everywhere — it’s not just for the playground anymore. With the rise of social media, cyberbullying has made its way into the dictionary and our lives, and it’s every bit as serious as a physical show of force. While parents must deal with children who are bullied, many parents have children that exhibit the negative behavior.

If you’re unsure of what a child bully looks like, here are six major signs:

  1. Your Child Beats People Up At School That should be a pretty big red flag. Parents are almost always notified if their children are involved in a physical altercation at school. Does your child beat you up at home? Has your child ever lashed out physically? Coping with anger through physical aggression is never productive or appropriate. The earlier in life that lesson is learned, the better.
  2. Your Kid Loves The Internet If you have a child and a computer, there’s a good chance your kid is a cyberbully. According to iSafe.Com, 53% of children in grades four through eight have admitted to posting something mean on the Internet. Monitor your child’s Internet usage as much as you can, especially usage that involves interaction with others. If that’s not enough, consider disallowing your child to participate in social media until they’re responsible enough to practice kindness and etiquette online.
  3. Your Child Is A Giant Snob Exclusivity breeds rude behavior, and social cliques at schools are common. These can be hurtful breeding grounds for picking on excluded children. Talk to your children. Let them know that people who are not as privileged, who look or act differently, or those with disabilities are nothing to be afraid of. They’re also not people you should make fun of. It’s OK to have a social group — this is a natural part of every person’s development. But make sure that the friendships and their intentions are perennially positive. Snobbery denotes some fundamental insecurity about those not like ourselves. And sometimes the most popular kids are the ones who are nice to everyone. Encourage your child to be open, curious, and kind.
  4. Your Child Takes Pleasure In Hurting Animals This isn’t just a sign that your kid is a potential bully; it’s a sign that your kid is a potential psychopath. Inflicting pain on small animals is a sign of a potentially warped view of what it means to be human, and a lack of respect and empathy. Don’t let your kid bully animals, and it will be easier to teach them not to bully people. If hurting animals becomes a pastime for your child, therapy might be in order.
  5. You’re A Bully The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and this is especially true for social interactions. If your child routinely witnesses you complaining, gossiping, or being hurtful to others, they’re not going to learn any different. Everyone occasionally bullies someone else, even the most well-intentioned and mature adults. But if you’ve got a problem with authority or heterogeneity, don’t let your child know. Ever. Until they’re about 30, your kids are pretty much allowed to blame all negative personality traits on you.
  6. Your Child Has Health Problems Disrupted sleep patterns in young children have been linked to exhibitions of bullying behavior. And if your child has a chemical imbalance — such as ADD or nonsituational depression — there’s always a possibility they could act out. Interrupted breathing, bad diet, and other physical maladies could also play a role. Mind and body are interconnected, and will always affect one another. Help your child to be healthy, and expect healthy social behaviors, as well.

Source: Online Psychology Degree

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7 Bad Habits Kids Pick Up From Facebook

The Facebook generation – that is the trend of our kids and teens today, but what new habits (good and bad) are they learning from social networking?  Since Facebook is the largest and most used social networking site, let’s see what the top seven bad habits kids are learning from Facebook.

You had to have seen this one coming: kids are picking up bad habits from their extensive use of social media giant Facebook. This can’t come as too big of a surprise though, because it stands to reason that something so popular and fun would be bound to have some ill effects. Not that we’re condemning Facebook, mind you, but there are a few potential pitfalls to watch out for regarding your child’s usage.

The following are seven bad habits that kids pick up from Facebook:

  1. TMI – To be honest, many of us are already guilty of grossly over-sharing our personal lives on Facebook. When you have a place to update your status 24/7, though, it shouldn’t come as any real surprise that eventually one’s entire personal life is right there for anyone and everyone to read on their profile.
  2. Inappropriate Friending – It tends to be an automatic reaction for some to “friend” someone after they’ve added you, accompanied by the friend confirmation request, whether this person is someone you know well or not. While they may not like the idea of saying ‘no’, safety should have a higher priority than popularity.
  3. Posting Inappropriate Photos – Inappropriate photographs always seem to find their way onto people’s Facebook pages. For that matter, taking such photos in the first place is ill-advised, to say the least. Coupled with the prospect of being friended by stalkers and strangers, not to mention being available for any potential employers or school officials, this makes for a very dangerous mix.
  4. Poor Time Management – It’s very easy to lose track of one’s time while socializing on Facebook, and hours at a time can be lost without even realizing it, often at the expense of more important things like homework, chores, etc. It may be wise to install a filter software that can monitor use and block certain sites during specified time periods to ensure that your kids don’t spend too much time on the website.
  5. Indiscriminate Downloading – Facebook is notorious for third party apps that seek to gain access to personal data and the friend lists of members who use them. There’s a large risk associated with accepting gifts via some of these app, unfortunately, that could end up compromising your personal information.
  6. Poor Grammar – As with chat rooms, IM’s, and text messaging, all of which came prior to social media, Facebook posts can tend toward cyber shorthand, whether it’s in the interest of brevity or simply born out of sheer laziness. Although it’s acceptable – even necessary in some cases – to limit character usage, it’s very easy for this habit to leak over to your child’s more formal writing and correspondence.
  7. Not Safeguarding Personal Info – Facebook provides varying levels of privacy settings for its users. Members can share everything with anyone, or limit access to their profile to just friends and/or family. Kids today have become ok and even lax with the safeguarding of their personal information, and identity theft, stalking or harassment can end up being one of the penalties for your child being too open with his or her personal information.

Source:  Become a Nanny

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Bullying: 10 Ways Technology Has Made Cyberbullying and Bullying Worse

When we were growing up there were bullies.  Nobody liked to be bullied, but it was a fact of life that you had to deal with kids that weren’t very nice.  Now, schools are so anti-bullying that anything that even slightly seems like bullying is taken very seriously.  At least when we were growing up they didn’t have Facebook to upload embarrassing videos to that would ruin a person’s life.

Check out 10 ways technology makes bullying worse.

  1. Facebook: Embarrassing pictures and videos can be uploaded to Facebook in a matter of a few seconds and ruin someone’s life forever.  Kids do not understand the damage that something like that can do to a person.  People have actually committed suicide because of events like these.
  2. Cell phones: Growing up we did not have cell phones.  Kids these days have the ability to take pictures at a moment’s notice and sometimes not in the most appropriate places.  Nude pictures of students in the shower or in the locker room have also caused suicides.
  3. Texting: Kids can bully by texting now.  They can text everyone else at the same time something bad or embarrassing about someone else.  They can also send pictures over their phone to everyone on their contact list.  Bullying like this can make someone’s life miserable.
  4. Flip cameras: These cameras are used to shoot quick videos at close range and can be uploaded to the Internet.  Kids that want to bully just have to take embarrassing videos of a student and share them with everyone.  Or a video can be sent to a parent as well that would get them grounded or in trouble.
  5. You Tube: A lot of good things have happened to people by posting a video on You Tube, but a lot of bad stuff has happened too.  People love to be the first one to dish the dirt on someone else.  They witness a fight they grab their cell phone and upload it to You Tube.  Or they set someone up and post what they think is a funny video to You Tube, but it’s actually very embarrassing.  People don’t think they are bullying when they do this stuff, but they really are.
  6. Gaming systems: Many online gaming systems allow conversations between the players.  Teens have reported that someone pretending to be them said mean things or embarrassing things to another person.  This kind of bullying is hard to stop and hard to track.  It does however cause a lot of problems for today’s teens.
  7. Blogs: There are teens that create blogs that post the latest gossip about people and will say nasty things about people.  Teens feel that they are anonymous and that no one can tell who is doing the bullying, but there are ways to track down who’s doing it and there are some big consequences.  If the bullying leads to a suicide the teen who is behind the bullying can be brought up on charges and sent to jail.  Lesser sentences are losing privileges to use a computer for 2 years.  Try doing your homework without a computer these days.
  8. Chat sites: Other sites online have chat rooms where teens can go and chat with their friends online.  People can go into these chat rooms and make up a user name and start saying bad things about kids in that chat room.  Many times there is a chat room that the students frequent because all their friends go there so when someone bullies in a chat room a lot of that kid’s peer group could be reading it.
  9. E-mail: Bullies steal identities and will sign into an e-mail account and send damaging e-mails pretending to be that teen.  Inappropriate messages to a female teacher or a nasty message to the principal are all things that can really get that child in trouble and they didn’t do anything.  Remind your child to keep passwords absolutely private.
  10. Instant messaging: Bullies will try to send nasty instant messages threatening to do something to a teen when they see them next.  Or tell them that they are going to make sure that they don’t get something they want at school like a part in the play or a solo in choir.  Bullying can take many forms even if it’s just telling someone that they did a terrible job on their audition or they overheard someone important say that they did a terrible job.  Anything like that is going to put undue stress on that child.  Make sure that your child is aware and being safe.

Source:  Full Time Nanny

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Teens, Parents and Computers: 10 Concerns About Computers in Kids Rooms

Where is your teen's computer?

Many kids have their own cell phones and televisions. As computers have come down in price, parents can often afford to provide kids with their own computer as well. However, parents should give some thought to where their kid’s computers should be located. Your kid’s bedroom may not be the best choice.

  1. Skype – Most computers today come with webcams, and Skype can be downloaded free. With this combination, your child can video chat for free with friends, relatives and, uh, strangers. The video communication is two-way. That means, whoever is on the other end will be peering directly into your home, more specifically into your child’s bedroom.
  2. Chatrooms – Chatrooms have always been a bit unsafe for children to visit on the internet. It is easy for adults to disguise themselves as kids or for predators to present themselves as harmless and friendly. These situations can be more difficult to monitor when the computer is located in your child’s bedroom.
  3. Screen time – Easy access can mean too much access. Between school and home, video games, TV, movies and surfing the net, kids spend way too much time in front of screens these days. Keeping it out of the bedroom can help cut down on the screen time.
  4. Sharing – If your kids hangout in their room with friends, their friends will inevitably end up using the computer there. It can be difficult enough to monitor your own child’s computer activity, you don’t want to take responsibility for other people’s children too.
  5. Youtube – Creating videos and posting them to Youtube or facebook to share with their friends has become a very common source of entertainment for kids. It has also gotten kids in serious trouble in some circumstances. This is less likely to happen if the computer is in public family space.
  6. Environment – Computers all have fans to keep them cool. These fans can also attract dust to the computer and hinder its performance. Unless your child actually keeps their room clean and tidy, the physical environment may not be the best for a computer.
  7. Surfing – Unless you are comfortable with your child wandering alone in any and all neighborhoods of a large city, you shouldn’t be comfortable allowing them to roam freely around the internet by themselves. There are plenty of dangers there of various types.
  8. Maintenance – Although most kids know more than their parents about computers, they still don’t always take care of things the way they should, even it only means clicking a mouse. They may delay critical updates and warnings that are needed to keep their computer functioning properly. You are less likely to realize this until it is too late, if the computer resides in their bedroom.
  9. Printing – If they use their computer for doing homework, then they will likely need to print material as well. That means either putting a printer in their room, going through the hassle of transferring files from one computer to another to print or creating the ability to do that over your home network.
  10. Video Chat – Even if your child doesn’t turn on their webcam, they may access sites where others are using theirs, such as chat roulette sites. On these sites, you never know what or who is going to appear on your screen next. X rated scenes are not uncommon. Just another reason to keep the computer where it is easy for you to monitor the screen.

Kids are kids. They need their parents to take on the responsibility of watching out for them and not allowing too much freedom. They’ll have time enough for internet ‘privacy’, once they’re out on their own.

Source:  PhoneTVInternet.com

Is Your Teen At-Risk Online? Clues to Be Aware Of

Do you knowwho your teen is chatting with virtually?

Fact: Teens spend more time than ever before – online.

Fact: More teens know a lot more about technology than most adults.

Fact: Most teens know more about the Internet than their parents.

Are these facts in your home?  It is reality that technology is growing at the speed of lightening.  Before you can buy a new computer or cell phone, a new, upgraded and improved one is created.  How many of you are waiting for April for the new iPad?

What are signs that your teen or child might be at risk online?

Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.

Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.

Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.

You find pornography on your child’s computer.

Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is “normal.” Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.

Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.

While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in “phone sex” with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.

While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child’s phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child’s phone number.

Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.

As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.

Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.

A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.

Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

Even if you don’t subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend’s house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

Source: FBI Parent Guide to Internet Safety

Internet Predators do not discriminate, any child or teen is at risk if not properly taught about how to stay safe in cyberspace.

In Broward County, Mother’s Against Predators (MAP) was formed to help educate and inform parents, teachers and the community about the warning signs of predators as well as tech tips we all can use.

Parenting Teens: Community Education – Circle of RESPECT

What is Circle of Respect?

To promote RESPECT as a way to manage conflict and prevent criminal behavior.

Let’s face it, many of today’s teens and kids lack the respect that generations prior had for authority and even their parents.  Teens and children are controlling  the home, driving parents crazy and simply don’t honor their elders as they should.

So what does Circle of Respect do?

The Circle of Respect is the National Crime Prevention Council’s (NCPC) latest and most comprehensive campaign to protect youth from bullying and cyberbullying. Launching in October, the campaign seeks to change the commonly held belief that bullying is a rite of passage, and teaches instead that such behavior is unacceptable through a positive, pro-social message that encourages respect and consideration for others. To succeed in its mission, the Circle of Respect will feature an education campaign, outreach materials including publications and public service advertising, and partnership efforts to reach a national audience.

One of the strong components of Circle of Respect is educating parents and schools about bullying and cyberbullying.  This is a growing concern and deadly issue that needs to be addressed by the entire country.  Florida, however, has landed on many national headlines with the near death of Michael Brewer and Josie Lou Ratley as well as the special needs 13 year-old girl that was taunted on her school bus – with condoms!

Did you know 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of being bullied? The recent cases of young people who have tragically ended their lives because they were so badly bullied are a painful example that there is a serious problem in America today. There is no better time than the present to start changing these statistics…and we can do so through education!

Do you want to become more active in The Circle of Respect?  Here are some other ways you can do so:

  • Circle of Respect Book Club: Take part in the online Book Club to generate a guided national discussion about this issue. The Book Club will feature one book each month on the Circle of Respect’s website by a noted author in the field of bullying and cyberbullying. Each author will also lead an in-depth discussion via a downloadable podcast.
  • Sign up for Email Alerts: Sign up for email alertsto get updates on the campaign, find out how you can be involved, get sneak previews of what’s happening next, and even enter contests.
  • Make Your Pledge: What actions will you pledge to take in order to spread awareness and widen the Circle of Respect? Let us know.
  • View Pledges: Sign up for your own free account on The Circle of Respect to see what others are doing to help.
  • Take Awareness Video Viral:NCPC and Saatchi & Saatchi unveiled an animated short starring everyone’s favorite crime dog,McGruff®,  to teach a whole new generation of children how to “Take A Bite Out of Crime.” View and share the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bizeJYJJVdU
  • Simply spread the word:It’s as easy as it sounds. Share the campaign online via your social networks and also talk openly with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and/or peers.
  • Join us on Facebook:Become a fan today and share your ideas and stories with the community.

For more information, visit: www.circleofrespect.org

Watch the video.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer families.

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