This past summer I wrote a blog post for DrugFreeAZ.org about keeping your kids safe on the Internet, you can see it here. A couple weeks ago I was asked to talk to the Arizona Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women on a similar topic. While doing the research for the NCJW talk, I happened upon a blog post that referenced a recent Pew Internet study on how American teens are using social networks. The full study is here, but let me point out some highlights.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you that 96 percent of teens are now online and that 80 percent of them are using Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis. What I find troubling is that 88 percent of those teens say that have witnessed mean and cruel behavior online and that 19 percent admit to being bullied online.
When asked, some of the kids thought it was ok to be mean and cruel online because “you can’t really hurt someone online.” Whoa… tell that to the families whose kids have taken their own lives as a result of this type of behavior.
Parents, teens rely on you for advice about a lot of things. Make it a point to talk to them about their online behavior as well – this includes social media sites AND cellphones. You help your kids be good and kind people in real life, help them understand that that same behavior applies in the online space as well.
You know your kids’ friends and probably most of the parents, do the same thing online. I’m not suggesting you stalk your kids Facebook page, but pop in there on a regular basis and see what’s happening. There is no substitute for open and honest discussions with your kids.