You should be pre-vetting every app that your children download.
When Andrew Fuller sat down last year to counsel a group of teenage boys who had taken a photo of a girl they knew, photoshopped her head onto the body of a naked porn star, and shared it around social media, they had no idea what damage they had done.
They would say, ‘We were just mucking around, we weren’t hurting anybody, what are you worried about?’
The photograph unfortunately accumulated derogatory comments from people as it travelled, circulated & got shared and the girl was so humiliated that she changed schools, but it could have been so much worse.
Even in ‘Broadchurch,’ Detective Inspector Alec Hardy’s ‘daughter’ Daisy is the subject of humiliating cyber bullying photos that go viral.
I am a great believer in using stories that appear in the News to ‘Talk & Teach’ kids our kids about our values, bearing in mind their ages and maturity. I talked to my kids about the dangers of taking drugs when Leah Betts, who sadly appeared on the front page of The Daily Mail many years ago, died from taking an Ecstasy tablet. I talked to them about Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman the two children murdered in Soham by Ian Huntley about staying safe. I talk to them now about Donald Trump and his intolerance, his values and his attitude to women, different cultures, and races.
I get my kids thinking.
I was always ‘talking & teaching my kids in a chatty, non-preachy way about all sorts of things. From brushing their teeth to eating their broccoli, to staying safe online to respecting women. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t put your head in the sand and hope they’ll be OK – that way they pick up misinformation, & can get the wrong end of the stick and pick up attitudes that you don’t condone, do you really want your kids to learn about things like sex and relationships from the media, other kids, or from curious google searches from online porn sites?
The most worrying trend psychologists see nowadays is the degradation of basic humanity, & that involves women in particular, by boys who vilify & degrade and humiliate others on social media.
Often Dads say to me ‘Well boys will be boys. We’ve all looked and laughed at ‘naughty’ photos from magazines. What’s the big deal?” – well boys are learning how to treat women from how their Dads speak, act, and behave around women, their partner & their daughters all the time. That’s how values and behaviour get passed down the generations.
One quick way to jolt a rather complacent parent around what their son is watching or looking at is to say, ‘Would you like a boy to be speaking about your daughter in that way, because she’s somebody’s little girl too you know?”
In the wake of a recent spate of cases of Australian boys debasing girls — and each other — via social media, experts are blaming “negligent” parents for failing to discuss issues of respect and appropriate digital behaviour with their sons.
“Taking the path of least resistance seems to be the parenting strategy that way too many parents are taking now,” says Melbourne child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.
Instead of having discussions with their sons about porn and the boundaries of acceptable online behaviour, he says many parents are craving to be their child’s best friend — with the result that they are not getting the education they need.
Another major problem is that parents are too embarrassed to speak to their children about pornography, either at all, or early enough, given how young boys now see it for the first time.
It is important, experts say, because research has long shown that exposure to hardcore porn is linked to sexual assault.
Of course, you have to pick your moment, plan what you want to say and be confident in the messages that you want to get over.
It’s awkward, as you do need to talk to them about porn before they’ve even had their first kiss.
But don’t delegate the problem to your child’s school, I think it’s better coming from you in a loving setting, putting context to relationships, sex and love, than from a textbook. I think home and school need to work together to teach children these important values.
In the most recent incident, a 15-year-old boy from Rose Bay Secondary College in Australia was last month charged with producing child abuse material on his phone, after filming the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl and distributing it to at least 50 other teenagers.
You need to have these often-difficult conversations with your children.
Ask them “Why would anyone film a friend of yours, committing a crime, and then put it on the internet?”
Ask them “What would you do in this situation if this happened to you?” because if you don’t get in quickly, by the time they’re 14, 15, 16, they have absolutely no concept of the importance of managing their digital footprint … and the 15 year old Australian boy has clearly not understood that.
Don’t strive to be ‘cool’ and want to be your child’s best friend. You are there to be their parent. So, set limits and boundaries.
Parents are focusing on girls at the expense of boys.
Part of the problem is that many parents don’t really take cyber bullying seriously or really understand that the harm from cyber bullying is exactly the same, if not worse, than from bullying itself, as it is relentless 24/7 and can go viral so very quickly.
Evidence of this, is in how few parents are using apps like Kidslox, Our Pact, Cold Turkey and Self Control, which allow you to manage your children’s access to the internet and block them from downloading certain apps.
It may be time to pause to ponder your child’s access and use of screen time. Parental controls have now reached a very high level of sophistication, but if they’re not activated by you, they’re a waste of time.
And even though young boys are increasingly becoming the victims of predators via social media and online games like Clash of Clans and Roblox, many parents are still in denial about this danger, too.
You should be pre-vetting every app that your children download amid renewed concerns about virtual reality gaming, a cyber safety.
The focus has been on body image, Snapchat, and selfies, but it’s time for a wakeup call for us as parents, teachers and the wider community, who have for many years focused far more on how social media is negatively affecting girls, I think we need to also focus on talking and teaching boys.
So, what are you as parents of boys to do?
Begin teaching your children about online safety when they begin primary school, and begin talking to your son about “explicit material” by year 6.
As a parent, it is important to understand the risks associated with watching porn at a young age so that you can talk to your child about how to stay safe and what to do if they ever feel concerned or uncomfortable about something they’ve seen.
It is normal for young people to be curious about sex and relationships. The internet gives them a way to access information and get answers to questions they may feel uncomfortable about asking you. There are a number of other reasons young people may be accessing porn online.
Simply put: you’re never too young to learn about kindness, tolerance and respect, but we need to talk and teach our kids that this extends to online too.