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February 04th, 2016

What are we bragging about?

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend about something her insightful son asked her. Her son is a terrific kid: athletic, wise, fun, friendly and incredibly hard-working and disciplined.  

There had been a dance at his school where the girls invite the boys to dance.  My friend’s son had not been invited.  He probably wouldn’t have said anything at all if he hadn’t seen pre-dance photos on his Mum’s Facebook page that her friends had posted.  There were the shots of girls dressed up, boys in tuxedos, corsages, poses … you know the photos.  He asked his Mum: “What are they bragging about?”  Then he offered this as his own answer: “Mum, they are bragging about their children being popular and social. They’re not bragging about the things that matter!” … the things that matter to him.  And, you know, he’s right! 

So, here’s the question again: what are we bragging about?  Do we want OUR Facebook pages to be showing that we value our daughter’s prettiness, or the length of her legs, or the way her hair looks?  Do we want our sons to be valued for their good looks and that they were deemed worthy of being invited to dance?  I decided to scroll through my own Facebook feed from the last few months … and while I consciously post very few individual photos of my child, there are clear themes that jump out! 

- A photo of my child and my husband both dressed up at a Halloween party.  I guess I want everyone to see that they are good sports and like to get dressed up!

- An outdoorsy picture.  I want everyone to see that my daughter loves to be outdoors.

- She did her first triathalon.  She’s athletic.

- The obligatory first-day-of-school-look-how-grown-up-and-pretty she is photos of her alone and with neighborhood friends.  She is cute, she has friends … and a dog!

- Jumping off a dock into the ocean at sunset.  She’s a kid that loves the water and is always up for fun with new friends.

- A photo with neighborhood friends as they run a lemonade stand and golf ball sale for local golfers to raise funds for the Nepal earthquake relief efforts.  I want people to see that she cares about making a difference in the world and that she has a responsibility to contribute. 

I could go on … but I guess what I want my friends to know about my child is essentially that she is sporty, has a global understanding and wants to make a difference; she is friendly, fun and pretty … and that she has a dog!  Here’s the follow up question though, how might my friends perceive what I’m posting?  How does that leave other children feeling if/when they see my posts.  And I know exactly what can happen! 

While writing this, a 1-year ago memory photo appeared on my feed.  It was a photo posted by a friend of the children from 4 out of 5 neighborhood families out on a hike.  The children from the 5th family hadn’t been invited … a complete oversight … not a malicious exclusion by any stretch of the imagination.  But, the son of said 5th family saw the photo on his Mum’s Facebook page and was left feeling excluded, hurt and angry.  

As parents, we are absolutely allowed to feel proud of our children and we do want to share our joyful experiences with family and friends.  I am not writing this at all as a judgement of what we should or shouldn’t post on our pages.  We should, however, post with a greater understanding of two things: 

  1. That our children may not want us posting anything about them anyway.
  2. And if they are ok with us posting, we need to be careful about the messages we are inadvertently sending out about We all know that our children are special and wonderful in so many ways.  What one child has in terms of sociability, another may have strengths in sports, or the arts … or community service. 

If your children are ok with you sharing their life experiences, check in from time to time to see how you are presenting your children to your world.  Is it a true reflection of the important qualities you value in your children?

Ann Magalhaes, The Parent Practice NY

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October 17th, 2010

Are you keeping your children safe on the Internet?

Internet safety and children

By Elaine Halligan

As a parent of children in the 21st century you have, I am sure, many fears – maybe worrying about keeping our children safe outside the home? Maybe you have the perception that your child is in danger due to the news stories about child killings and paedophilia. The reality is however that with the introduction of new technologies and social networking sites the risks are possible as great inside our homes as well. “There are places your kids shouldn’t be hanging out in. Dark alleys. Street corners. Websites.” reports J.Kaplan from Fox News last week.

How well versed are you in the use of Facebook; MSN messaging; SMS and Twitter to name just a few? Our role as parents is to educate and we can only do that when we are knowledgeable about the risks involved. Cyber bullying is a real risk and the impact can be devastating, not just for the victim but also for the perpetrator. There are a growing number of girls and boys ( but particularly girls) as early as Year 5 and Year 6 setting up social networking accounts. Are you aware of what your children are doing?

Take a look at some interesting facts:

  1. FACEBOOK -  It’s against the terms of service for under 13’s to be on Facebook  and young kids online interacting with older kids places them at risk for content exposure inappropriate for their age. If your child is under 13 and on FACEBOOK they will have lied about their age. So what? Our children learn about values through us, so if one of your values is that you want to trust your child and expect him to tell you the truth, this suddenly becomes an important area. Be a good role model for your kids.
  2. CLUB PENGUIN – reported by CEOP (Child Exploitation Operation) to be the most notorious site for paedophilia– who would have imagined that 5/6 year olds innocently playing games in igloos dressed as fairies may be interacting with predatory adults?
  3. DIGITAL IMPRINT – any photos, comments and content published on a social networking page can be read and copied by other users. If you post something offensive and subsequently delete, the imprint is still there and the chances are someone somewhere will have read and even copied to others.
  4. FURTHER EDUCATION Currently two thirds of UK employment agencies and many University admissions offices trawl social networking sites as part of their candidate evaluation process. Be careful of what your child publishes TODAY online as this may endure for ever on the internet.
  5. BYRON REPORT 2008 – the report discovered children frequently act out of character on the internet. In the absence of usual cues of facial expression and tone of voice, it seems that people (and mainly young people) often alter their moral code perhaps doing and saying things that are out of character. In short people are much more likely to lie, deceive or behave with less inhibition online that face to face.
  6. TEXT MESSAGING – your role as parents is to train your kids in the appropriate ways to send texts: “Ask yourself before you send a text, e-mail, or post — Is the message RIGHT? Read the message to be sure it sounds OK. And imagine if you received it…would it be hurtful or upsetting to you?” Once an inappropriate message is sent, the damage has been done…there is no retraction of words as the evidence is there in black and white for all to see.

The subject is vast …if you want to know more register for our intensive workshop on the whole area of screens and internet safety on:

Wednesday 10th November 10-12.30pm at The Parent Practice in Clapham SW London

How safe is your child or teenager on the computer?

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