Cyberbully

I watched a movie on TV the other day with the boys called “Cyberbully”.

It was the story of a girl who gets bullied – online.  During one scene, the mother of this girl tells her to get off the equivalent of Facebook in this movie. The daughter refuses, as obviously she wants to be online with everyone else.

The mother then tells her daughter that she had gone online and checked her daughter’s account and saw stuff she did not like, and that is why she was telling her to shut it down.

Appalled, the daughter screams at her mother, enraged that her mother has violated her privacy.

The mother calmly retorts that nothing on the Internet is private. Nothing.

As I was watching this particular scene, Zach turned to me and said, “Hey, she’s saying the same thing you guys say”. I think he was a bit surprised that here, on TV, this mother was saying the exact same thing as his own mother had said! Huh. Maybe his own mother isn’t that far off the mark after all?!?

It certainly has been a discussion around here in the past year as technology has started to play a more serious role in our kid’s lives. Rob and I decided to try to instill the “framework” that we wanted to have around technology. So we laid down a few ground rules.

The main rules are: 1) The computers/ipad are to be used in the main areas of the house. 2) We have all the kid’s passwords for all their accounts, phones etc. 3) We will periodically and randomly check their emails, texts, Facebook accounts (only Gabe has it) and any other social media outlet they have.

We do have other “rules” as well, such as when technology can be used, how long, how much, respectful content etc.

They also know that the privilege of having a phone requires them to ensure they are always returning messages asap to a parent who texts or leaves them a voicemail.

But the whole privacy issue certainly does come up. Not for the younger kids (Zach and Zandra have phones now), but I saw with Gabe he was a little unsure about the seemingly invasion of privacy.

We explained that we don’t really care about the “content” per se. I don’t care who likes who, and where you are meeting so and so, and what mark you got on a test. I do care if I see someone bullying you, or you bullying someone, or someone threatening, or something that I know is bordering on the “danger” cliff. That’s what I’m looking out for. Looking out for their safety – and looking out for stuff that I can show them is not appropriate to be sharing in cyberworld.

For example, I sometimes see girls posting their phone numbers on Facebook, or sending invites to parties at their house via Facebook. I’m sure it is innocent enough – but can you see how quickly it can go wrong? Do you want that info being passed around? Or the gossiping that goes on too – “Do you like so and so”? “So and so is a loser”. Sorry – that’s the kind of conversation that leads to nothing but heartache, no good, and some deep hurt. A quick check from a parent on occasion can ensure that these things don’t happen.

So while I’m all for teenagers and tweens exerting their independence and demanding privacy – cyberworld is not the place to start. If it can be passed along to anyone else – in a written form – it is not private and you need to be very aware of that.

The movie really showed how the Internet can really be used to hurt someone, but it also made it painstakingly clear that parents have the control to counter these attacks, simply by monitoring what their kids are doing a little bit more carefully.

I’m so glad that Zach also got to see firsthand how it’s just not his Mom with her weird rules – if you see it on TV – it must be the right thing to do!


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