by Lisa Fritsch (bio)
Parents are now blaming the Internet for their lack of control over their children.
Previous generations never had cell phones and computers, but kids were scamming their parents and bullying their classmates long before Google and Facebook existed. The consequences, in fact, were more serious then since what went down took place in real time and space — not cyberspace.
Today's bully isn't the big buster Billy who shows up with a posse of five on the playground to intimidate little Timmy with a firm shoulder shove or book-dumping. Cyber Billy opens an online account and torments Timmy with mean words and threats.
Today's high school hunk doesn't drive to "Make-Out Point" when he can engage in "sexting" and get naked photos of his female classmates on his smart phone. And he can now virtually share her with his friends with a click.
What is a parent to do, especially if other parents are less concerned about the way their children behave in cyberspace? What if their son is the cyber bully or their daughter is the scheming debutante calling other girls a whore? What if their daughter is being pressured into the world of sex in the Internet?
How about an old-fashioned and simple solution?
How much time do parents spend with their children, besides taking and picking them up from school? Are parents taking the time to have regular sit-down family dinners to discuss their day and let children in on the importance of family and how much this togetherness is cherished? Are parents taking time to know their children's friends and their friend's parents? Finally, where do children find the time to roam Facebook, the Internet and text for hours?
Between school, after school activities, homework and chores, where are children finding all this time for cyber-mischief?
Children should not have unaccounted and unsupervised time on their hands. Kids should always be supervised. Privacy has no place in a child's life. The parents who believe in a right to privacy should think carefully about how they managed their own private time as teenagers.
Children will always look for ways to skirt the rules. If the rules are already loose to non-existent, parents invite mass chaos, self-destruction and emotional and sometimes physical harm to their children.
It is naïve for parents to go to school administrators for help with cyber-bullying and sexting occurring outside of school. At some point, parents must be parents. Schools can barely contain kids from homes with scant behavioral and disciplinary boundaries while at school, let alone be responsible for them after the bell rings. Parents need to get ahead of the game by controlling their children's time and space from the outset.
A parent can prevent a child from having a Facebook page. Computers can be located in family areas and locked down with secure passwords known only to parents. Phones can be Internet-disabled, and parents can openly monitor texts with full disclosure to their children to prevent sexual indiscretions.
Better yet, parents can take the time to sit down and discuss — graphically and truthfully — the moral and psychological implications of their carnal impulses and desire to impugn others. This takes time.
Judy, a parent recently profiled by the New York Times, caught on to this simple truth after she caught her daughter cyber-bullying. Judy took away all of her daughter's electronics. "There were weeks of screaming and slammed doors," but "as Judy took long walks with her daughter, the girl began to resemble the child Judy thought she'd known."
Parents must get to know their children and be part of their lives. We must know their stories and tell them ours. We must know their friends and their friends' friends, whether or not their kids think it's an imposition.
Loving our kids is not enough. Love takes time.
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Lisa Fritsch is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.
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