When Freedom Leaves Our Hands Tied: Online Parenting

Recently on my Facebook I saw a picture that portrayed an act of parental discipline. It was of a young (about twelve- year-old) girl holding a sign that read:

 “Since I want to post photos of me holding liquor, I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what I should and should not post.

Bye-Bye 😦 ”

Of course a heated debate ensued in the comment section about what modern parenting should look like in terms of social media. Some thought the punishment was too severe (mostly young kids and inexperienced users) and others thought it was perfect (mostly adult women). I sat back and watch the comments fly and I pondered the words on that sign. They had a deeper meaning to me.

With the introduction of social media parents have a lot more they need to be aware of. With law enforcement consistently watching the online community it’s no wonder. Underage children are allowed to post whatever they want to “express themselves” but in the end the parents are liable for what their children post and Social Services can take children out of environments they think they are threatened or neglected…and all they need is suspicion.

Who really loses?

I’ve written enough posts about this subject before, but I simply cannot stress it enough. The most common issue with youth and the internet is improper education in Netiquette. Parents need to play an active role in their children lives on and off the net by teaching them wise internet use. The internet has been around for a bit more than 2 decades, and has already integrated a plethora of diversity. However, with this diversity came people who missed a few steps in the learning process. When I was younger, we were taught how to use the internet, but never any kind of internet safety. Social media was restricted to chat rooms that were few and far between, and parents didn’t know the extent of the online community. Generations experienced the online explosion without fully understanding it’s consequences.

What resulted from this online ignorance?

Today we have a generation that has the potential to be destructive. They can’t keep personal lives and professional lives separate because they don’t know how to log off. They say what they want, do what they want, and value “free speech” more than discretion and wisdom. They do not recognize authority or understand the emotional impact their words can make. Nor do they understand consequences because “it’s just Facebook” and “It doesn’t mean anything.” With the average high schooler having well over 300 friends “drama” can quickly become an all out war that leaves parents, teachers and principals looking to law enforcement to roam school halls and keep the peace.

In our online society…freedom has left our hands tied.

I’m not a parent. I do not claim to have any cure-all answers. I am, however, a person who has a passion for computer ethics as well as children and want to help parents become as aware as they can about the dangers and wonders of online use. I’m also a person who wishes someone had taught me more when I was younger about proper internet use (and thankfully my parents tried their best to ensure I treated people the same online as I would in public).The internet is a wonderful tool. But, as with all tools it has to be used wisely or someone could get hurt.

As I pondered the picture I found myself admiring the parents. That sign stood as a symbol. Though the daughter might have been upset she had yet to understand the importance of this message. What it really said (as I interpreted it) was:

“I love my child. I want her to make good decisions. I want her to grow up to be productive with a healthy social life. Parents, your children will be safe in our home because we do not condone this behavior. We are taking active responsibility to ensure this home is a safe place for everyone. Children, let this be an example to you to make wise decisions. If not because it’s the right thing to do or because you love and respect your parents…to save yourself from a similar punishment and embarrassment.”

For more information about how you can learn or teach your kids more about Netiquette feel free to visit this link: http://networketiquette.net/index.html

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