Combine the perfect storm of raging hormones and devices…
Combine the perfect storm of raging hormones with smartphones/tablets/computers and what do you get? Tweens/Teens doing dumb things online. Kids will always do dumb things online and offline. Why? Because they are not miniature adults as many like to believe. They are adolescents with underdeveloped brains. The undeveloped part of the brain that helps them make good decisions, have good judgment and control impulsive behavior is not fully developed until an adult reaches the age of 24. Having friends/peers in the mix increases risk taking in this age group. Friends/peers watching actually lights-up the reward center of the teen’s brain. (This doesn’t happen to an adult’s brain.) Deaths among adolescents are largely due to reckless behaviors.
Do kids think sexting is normal?
In the news we read frequently about sexting cases. It’s become so common place in some schools, that kids think it’s normal behavior. Raging hormones and sexting are also a bad combo. Many kids are unaware of the consequences of sexting and long term implications. They are naively unaware that a post, even using an app that purports to make it disappear, doesn’t disappear but remains on their phone and can be screen captured by others. They are unaware that the image that they thought was for their eyes only, may be seen by many eyes in their social group, school, family, and then further from school to school and beyond. Down the line when they apply to college or a job, a recruiter may also see the image. This same image may end up on a porn site or in the hands of a sextortionist. They are unaware that the police may become involved because it’s illegal to send a nude image of a minor to others; this is considered to be dissemination of child pornography in the eyes of the law. If someone receives the image, they become culpable, and if the image is sent to others even if it’s not their image, that is also against the law. One image can lead to tremendous damage.
So raging hormones, underdeveloped brains lead to dumb decisions. This is why parents need to parent online to help mitigate dumb decisions and teach their kids appropriate use of the internet, social media and behavior online.
Don’t let what happened to Kiana happen too anyone else!
Cyberbullying is another problem that many kids take for granted because it occurs so frequently and is in the news almost on a daily basis. They also don’t think about the impact their post will have on another human being sitting on the other side of that computer screen. Kiana’s law in Colorado just went into effect. Cyberbullies will now face harassment charges that could result in fines and up to six months of jail time.
Kiana a beautiful, young 14 year old cheerleader at Douglas County High School attempted suicide by hanging after being relentlessly cyberbullied anonymously. “Your pathetic and mean nothing.” “No one likes you @school.” “You’re disgusting.” She suffered a devastating permanent brain injury as a result.
A recent study found that many bystanders do not speak up or intervene because of a “diffusion of responsibility” when so many are aware of the cyberbullying taking place. This is again where parents come in. Parents expect a certain kind of behavior offline, right? Shouldn’t they have the same expectations of behavior online too? If you saw your teen posting a message that said, “you are pathetic and mean nothing”, wouldn’t you stop them and talk to them about why this is so wrong? Unfortunately, many parents remain unaware of how their kids are behaving online, which may be very different from the way they behave online due to the anonymity, “tight clubhouse atmosphere” and lack of supervision afforded them. Parents can absolutely help put an end to these horrific tragedies by paying attention to what their kids are posting.
Kids are also often unaware that there are anti bullying laws in place in most states. Unfortunately many do not specifically target cyberbullying. You can be sure this is coming down the pike as they have in other countries. Cyberbullying is a crime in New Zealand punishable by jail time and hefty fines. Kiana’s law is a good start to having solid cyberbullying laws across the United States.
Parent online just as you do offline.
Educate your kids now about appropriate online behavior and teach them that every time they post there is someone on the other end of their post that’s real and could be seriously affected as a result. Teaching that long standing golden rule doesn’t hurt either, “treat people the way you want to be treated…online”. And Put the Brain in Gear Before You Post Anything!