Talking to Our Children About Social Media and Drugs
In today's digital age, it is crucial for parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about the potential dangers of social media. Today, we will discuss the importance of educating children about the permanence of online content, the need for parental involvement, and the impact of video games on cyberbullying. We will also provide resources and tips for parents to navigate these conversations effectively.
The Honorable Stephanie A. Bridgett, Shasta County District Attorney, shared her time with us on how to arm parents with information to help them make better decisions when it comes to talking with their children about social media, drugs and human trafficking. Stephanie Bridgett is the first woman to serve as Shasta County District Attorney since the office was established in 1851. She is a mom of 4 children and a champion for training in schools on issues including bullying, human trafficking, and cyber safety.
Social Media & Your Children
Social media is part of the world now and as parents, we need to help our children find a balance of being a part of social media while being careful online. Stephanie shared that she had her own children write and submit a paper and present to their family as to why her son should have a social media account. He had to outline the downsides and the upside of having a social media account.
As a parent, Stephanie believes that through open communication with her children, she can empower them to use social media and be aware. She said that you have to be careful online because not everyone is who you think they are. People have fake accounts and pretend to be others, even people we may think we know. She spot-checks her children’s phones and social media accounts to see what kinds of content is showing up in their feeds and encourages and has her and her friends follow their children’s accounts to have eyes on them. Having your children watch informational videos about human trafficking and getting direct messages from others on these apps is important to arm them with the knowledge to be aware.
Another key point parents need to emphasize to their children is that anything they post online can have long-lasting consequences. From political, religious, or controversial Stephanie mentions, "This stuff does not go away and it impacts not you as a kid, but it impacts you in your world and forever."
Colleges and employers will look at your social media. Children need to understand that even if they believe their followers are only their friends, their friends' followers can also see their content. This means that anyone can potentially grab their posts and use them elsewhere without their consent.
To illustrate this point, the guest speaker shares a personal experience of witnessing the potential dangers of online content. She mentions how she has seen instances where people have used innocent videos on platforms like Roblox and Fortnite to groom and exploit children. It is essential for parents to be aware of the risks associated with these platforms and to monitor their children's activities closely.
Drugs & Your Children
In today’s world, it’s essential for parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about drugs. Make sure your children understand to not take anything from anyone. Stephanie advises her children to not put anything in their mouths that they didn’t purchase at a store or got from their parents. It’s crucial to emphasize that even a minuscule amount of fentanyl can lead to life-threatening overdose. Contrary to some parents’ fears, many kids are already discussing this topic among themselves. By initiating open dialogues, parents can provide their children with the knowledge and guidance they need to make informed, safe decisions, ultimately helping to protect their well-being.
Human Trafficking & Your Children
Child trafficking is a deeply distressing problem that often operates in more covert ways than traditional kidnapping scenarios. Often, perpetrators employ subtle tactics like grooming, enticing children with expensive gifts, and manipulating their emotions. It's crucial for both parents and children to understand what manipulation looks like – it can manifest as controlling behavior, isolating victims from friends, and constantly showering them with attention. Recognizing these warning signs is vital. If you ever witness a friend's child going through such a situation, it's imperative to speak up and take action. Engaging with trusted figures like coaches, teachers, or resource officers can make a significant difference. Furthermore, having open conversations with your own child about the signs to look for in their friends is essential. While you don't want to alienate them, setting boundaries when necessary and being a supportive listener can help create a safe environment for them to confide in you. It's all about being vigilant and proactive in protecting our children from the horrors of trafficking. A great resource and talking point is this video to watch with your child and discuss.
The Impact of Video Games on Cyberbullying
The guest speaker also discusses the potential dangers of video games, particularly in relation to cyberbullying. She mentions that when children have the ability to communicate in real time with others while gaming, they become vulnerable to online harassment and grooming. It is crucial for parents to be aware of the interactions their children have while gaming and to monitor their activities closely.
The guest speaker suggests that parents listen in on their children's conversations while gaming and be vigilant for any signs of bullying or inappropriate behavior. By actively engaging with their children and setting boundaries, parents can help create a safer online gaming environment for their children. Bullying is no longer limited to during school hours. With the age of the internet, bullying can take place 24 hours a day.
Parental Involvement is Key
The guest speaker highlights the importance of parental involvement in educating children about online safety. She mentions that her organization conducts parent nights to educate parents about cyber safety, human trafficking, and anti-bullying. However, she expresses frustration with the low attendance at these events, as many parents do not seem to understand the relevance and importance of these topics. To address this issue, the guest speaker suggests that parents take the initiative to educate themselves about social media platforms and online safety. She recommends setting up their own accounts and familiarizing themselves with the platforms their children are using. By doing so, parents can better understand the potential risks and have informed conversations with their children.
Initiating conversations with your children can be tough at first, but starting off conversations with “I heard about this story in the news,” or other ways to get those topics out will allow for an open dialogue between you and your child.
Resources and Tips for Parents
To help parents navigate these conversations and educate their children about online safety, the guest speaker recommends a few resources and tips. She suggests that parents request their child's school to organize parent nights on topics such as cyber safety. Additionally, she advises parents to research social media platforms and familiarize themselves with the features and potential risks. This will enable them to have informed conversations with their children and guide them in making responsible choices online. App-Send This Instead empowers children with different ways to say no.
Furthermore, the guest speaker emphasizes the importance of parents being their child's biggest advocate. By staying involved and engaged in their child's online activities, parents can better protect them from potential dangers. This includes monitoring their child's interactions while gaming and being aware of any signs of cyberbullying or inappropriate behavior.
In terms of resources, the guest speaker suggests that parents explore educational videos and materials that can help teach children about online safety. She also encourages parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about the potential risks and consequences of their online actions.
In conclusion, it is crucial for parents to educate themselves and their children about the potential dangers of social media and online gaming. By emphasizing the permanence of online content, the need for parental involvement, and the impact of video games on cyberbullying, parents can help create a safer online environment for their children. It is important for parents to be proactive, stay informed, and have open conversations with their children about responsible online behavior. By prioritizing your child’s safety and well-being, parents can make a lasting positive impact on their children's lives. For more information and resources on online safety and parenting, visit LaunchPadForKids.org.
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