On the way home after an evening outing with some friends, I asked my youngest if he had a good time.
“Sort of,” he answered. “But the kids on the playground were teasing me.”
“About what?” I asked. He sometimes reacts strongly to comments, so I assumed it wasn’t a big deal.
“Eric said he saw a picture of me sleeping while doing homework, and then Leslie said she saw it too, and all the kids started laughing.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I had posted a photo on Facebook of my son sleeping at his desk, his homework beside him. I had thought it was cute. My son puts his all into his activities, but when he’s tired, he’s tired. And he sleeps.
It runs in my family. My siblings and I know that once we reach a certain point of fatigue, we can’t push past it. Sleep is the only solution. My son has somehow learned that early. When he’s tired, even if it’s when we’re about to sing happy birthday at a party or when he’s supposed to be finishing up his homework, he will sleep.
My husband and I understand that and work around it. Our son’s teachers, for the most part, have also been understanding that at times he might fall asleep at his desk. I try to get him to bed on time when he’ll have an early morning or a long day.
Parents and teachers generally understand these things. Other kids often don’t.
When I posted the photo, I didn’t think about the possibility of parents showing their kids the “cute” post, which in the mind of a child might not be “cute” but “silly” or “funny” or “embarrassing.” Material to tease with.
Something I had done unthinkingly caused my son hurt. It cast him in a negative light in the minds of his friends. They probably forgot about it a minute later, and they were all playing again. But that moment, I had to admit to my boy that it wasn’t their fault; it was mine.
I pulled up the Facebook photo and showed it to my son, saying, “I posted this photo of you the other day. I didn’t think anyone would tease you about it.” Then I promised, “I won’t post anything of you unless I ask you first.” I already have that agreement with other members of my immediate family, but I didn’t think it would matter to my youngest. I was wrong.
It’s strange I would make a mistake like that. Thinking back to my own childhood, my strongest emotions resulted from teasing. I can remember half a dozen separate occasions, before the age of five, where I was brought to tears by teasing. Painful moments tend to remain in the mind and the heart long after the echo of the actual words fade.
How often do my own words or side comments have the same effect as those children on the playground? When I’m trying to focus on work, and after one too many interruptions, snap at the kids, telling them to leave me alone so I can get something done. Or when they’re arguing and I can’t stand the contention, so I tell them I don’t care who said what and whose fault it is—I just want peace.
After careful reflection, I vowed to see every moment of life through the eyes of my child.That’s not a promise I can make, nor one I can keep, but it is something I can try. Not a once-and-for-all decision, but a moment-by-moment choice. To slow down. To think. To pray. To love.
Photo and article courtesy of Activated magazine. Used by permission.
As children enter their preteen years (9- to 11-year-olds) most experience an increased desire to belong to a group, club, or a social network of some kind. Your child may be interested in communicating via chat, e-mail, or some other form of online communication with his or her peers. When and how much you allow your preteen to use the Internet as a means of communication is entirely up to you as parents.
Identifying the risks
Many teens do not appear to fully comprehend the public nature of material posted on social networking sites. Even material shared “privately” with one or selected others can easily be made public by the recipient. This lack of sensitivity to the potentially damaging nature of such disclosures is extremely evident on social networking sites, where some teens are posting personal contact information, intimate information, and material that is highly damaging to their reputations and current and future opportunities.
The biggest message that must be imparted to children and teens with respect to privacy and the Internet is this: it’s not private! Anything and everything that is put into electronic form and sent or posted online is public, or could easily be made public. Think before you post.
In the real world, when you share information with your friends, it is primarily just between the people present at the time. In general, the distance that offline information travels is limited, as are the ways in which it can be documented.
In the online world your private information and actions can be documented and made public, often by you. In a sense, everyone who participates in public social networks is suddenly a public figure. You should consider all the implications that status carries.
* Help your child set up his or her profile and account settings so that they are acceptable and as safe as possible.
* Let your child know that you will monitor his or her social networking site or blog, and make it clear to him or her what is acceptable and what will not be allowed.
* Help your child understand the public nature of the Internet. Teach your child to be careful of what he or she divulges through text and photos. Things that he or she wouldn’t feel safe saying to someone you have just met on the street should be considered inappropriate to share online.
* Keep an eye on who your child is connecting with online and how much information is being shared by your child, or by comments his or her friends make.
* Teach your child that the surveys and questionnaires abounding on social networking sites are consumer information techniques that companies use in order to find out what kind of products you’re likely to buy, which then helps them formulate advertising strategies.