Thursday, March 13, 2014

How much do you really know when it comes to your teen virtually?

It is tough to be a teenager in this decade of virtual technology.   You can video tape yourself and send a snap shot to your friends in seconds.  You can post your daily photos, quotes, updated status and twitter anytime of the day so everyone knows where you are and how you are feeling.  Generations ago, we had to pick up the phone to communicate with a friend or family member.  Today, just about everything kids do is through social media, cell phones, social network websites and i-gadgets.  

With this enhanced technology, there is a price to pay.  What happened to privacy?  Teenagers will sit in a room and text each other instead of speaking to one another.  Girls and boys are posing for their friends to have photos taken and posted for the public to view.   When one thinks of the term “bully” they may relate it to the playground bully in school who would pick on the weak.  Today when we say “bully” we associate this behavior with technology.     
According to the National Crime Prevention Council (2010),  Cyberbullying is similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones. Cyberbullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, and even anonymous users, but most often they do know their victims. 

Examples of Cyberbullying include:
Sending someone mean or threatening emails, instant messages, or text messages.
Excluding someone from an instant message buddy list or blocking their email for no reason
Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.
Breaking into someone’s email or instant message account to send cruel or untrue messages which posing as that person
Creating websites to make fun of another person such as a classmate or teacher
Using websites to rate peers as prettiest, ugliest, etc.

Males more commonly bully by sending messages of a sexual nature or by threatening to fight or hurt someone.  Females more often bully by spreading rumors and by sending messages that make fun of someone or exclude others.  They also use secrets as a method of bullying (NCPC, 2010).

There have been numerous documented suicide cases among teens due to cyber bullying.  Parents are being held accountable for their bully’s actions.  Should a parent know what their teen is doing on the phone they pay for monthly? The facebook account they created for their child?  The ipad/computer they have free range of through their internet account?  This has been the controversial topic in recent years.  

Education is key!  This also includes parents (not just the youth who are communicating daily with technology).  Parents want to trust their children with their activity online and on the cell phone.    

What can you do as a parent?  Many steps can be taken to monitor your child’s activity online:

Set parental controls on the internet (only allowing specific websites to be utilized and setting passwords)
Check the internet history – what websites is  your child visiting?
Have the computer centrally located in the home (family room, kitchen, etc.).
Talk to your child about the internet dangers
If you suspect your child is being secretive with the internet, you can install spyware applications on their computers
Monitor texting use on cell phones and social network websites (facebook, myspace, etc.).
Establish “rules” for the internet use and cell phone use

A child should not know more than a parent when it comes to cyber space!

Susan Wind, Epsilon Theta-Tampa, is a college professor who has taught, designed, and implemented criminal justice courses for the past 12 years.  She has held positions with the Department of Juvenile Justice, Probation and Parole and numerous police departments (Analysts, Grant Writer, Research Planner Positions). Her area of expertise includes: survey design and instrumentation, research methodology, data collection, grant writing and administration, program design and implementation, statistics and profiling.  Susan is also proficient in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and database administration.      

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