This week there has been more reports of abhorrent behaviours by young people, sharing nude photos of others, commenting, naming them, degrading them and passing judgement in pack mentality like proportions. 71 schools were named and shamed, however don’t look away just because your child’s school wasn’t mentioned.
I have been asked for lots of comments on this, so here is brief summary of what I believe about this issue.
- Parents do need to pay closer attention to the online lives of their kids. They must get in earlier teaching them the skills and behaviours to ensure they are reflecting their real life values.
- This is abhorrent behaviour not isolated to these kids and not isolated to these schools.
- Boys and girls are both sending, receiving, asking for and offering nude photos of themselves.
- The increased exposure to pornography has played a huge part in determining our children’s views about sexuality, relationships and the expectations of themselves and others.
- This is not just a gender issue.
- Some of these photos are certainly taken without consent. But not all.
- This is a legal minefield. Whilst we have laws for this, they are rarely used and the implications are extraordinary. Who is guilty? The person sending photos, receiving them, the owners of the site, the schools, the parents, the porn industry, society?
- We must get better at talking to our kids about how they are represented online. By commenting and sharing these posts, they are fuelling the fire. By ‘liking’ a comment or post they are endorsing the behaviour and validating the belief.
- Hanging out in the online world is hard work. Most adults don’t get it right. Our kids are rarely emotionally or socially developed enough to exist in a world that is so open, transparent and unforgiving. We need to be there to help them.
- We must however remember that this is not a reflection of all of our young people. Most would not endorse such hideous behaviour.
- There are many, many young people doing some amazing things online that reflects positivity and healthy connection. We must continue to encourage those things. Just this week I witnessed a whole lot of teenage boys posting selfies and tagging friends to raise awareness of suicide amongst men. Reminding each other that they were there for their mates. That they had their back. Raising awareness and helping each other is what we need them to be proud of.
So what are parents, schools, society to do?
- We talk to our kids about this stuff.
- We ask them their thoughts. Get their feedback. Discuss the implications for all involved
- We make our lessons relevant to them. We don’t tell a 13 year old that what they are posting could stop them getting a job when they are 20. That means nothing to them. They may be more interested however in missing our on being sports captain or getting the lead in the school play due to an online transgression.
- We pay close attention to what they are doing online, particularly when they are starting out. We monitor closely so we can pick them up on the mistakes. We alert them to those times when they are not behaving in a way that best reflects who they are and how they want to be seen.
- We make sure that they are confident enough in themselves and who they are that they don’t feel the need to send a naked photo to ensure they are liked. We build their esteem away from the screens so they don’t rely on likes and comments for their sense of self worth.
There is no quick fix to issues like this that arise, but we must remember to continue to instil in our children the values that we hold dear. We need to ensure that they are being reflected both in the real world and online.
And we need to encourage and congratulate and endorse all the many wonderful things our kids are doing.