The first time I watched Wizard of OZ, I was terrified of the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys. When my kids watched it, they thought it was pretty lame. Someone reminded me of a similar experience with the movie Jaws. When they watched Jaws the first time they were terrified and were reluctant to go swimming in the ocean again, but when their kids watched it the reaction was “this is supposed to be scary?” It’s apparent kids seem to have a different measure of what is scary, sexual, and violent these days.
Tweens and teens may also think that wild girls, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and now Miley Cyrus represent normal behavior. Kids are bombarded in the media by scantily clad celebrities, who often behave in disreputable ways. They search online for information, pictures and stories about these celebrities and want to emulate them. They may want to dress or undress in similar ways because they think this is normal and acceptable, and they want to be more grown up. Kids also want to be “popular” and fit in with their peers. They are exposed to scantily clad pics by their peers on Facebook and think everyone’s doing it. Let’s face it, parents, they think you are a living dinosaur.
As a result of daily media exposure, kids may not know how to decipher what is appropriate and inappropriate. When parents tell their children not to post inappropriate pics online, what does that mean? What are your children’s standards of an appropriate pic? Is it the same as yours? Since what kids post online is out in the cyber-world forever, and can permanently effect their digital reputation, it’s important for parents to know what their children are posting because what children may think is appropriate may not meet your standard of what’s appropriate. Having the conversation about this is not only necessary but crucial. It’s also extremely important to see what your child is posting online to learn what they think is OK to share online.
Unfortunately, the number of explicit photos being posted online by kids is increasing. There are several reports on this trend:
- According to a Common Sense Media Poll (Aug 2009) 13% have posted nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves or others online.
- Media Awareness reports 20% have posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.
- Another 2008 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, states that “one out of five tweens/teens surveyed reported that they had electronically sent or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves”.
Be aware that on Facebook many kids have way more friends on their friend’s list than they actually know – a large list is a kind of trophy to kids. Kids need to understand that anyone on this friend’s list can forward their pictures to others, especially ex-friends, and that once a picture is posted, it’s on the internet forever. Go through that friends list with your child and teach them that if they don’t know that “friend”, then that person needs to be deleted from that friends list.
Teaching core values begins in the home with parents. Kids today are desensitized by what they are exposed to in the media and have a different measure of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Parents need to have continual conversations and actively monitor online activity to teach and convey to their children their own core values. The influence of “under-dressed, out of control” celebrities will continue and that’s what makes it essential for parents to actively be part of their children’s lives, offline and online. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent that questionable pic from being posted in the first place?