As I travel the world speaking with parents about Internet Safety, they tend to overlook the “non- technical” piece to the equation. Many wonder why their daughters are posting naked photos of themselves, sharing photos where they are drinking (underage) alcohol, using inappropriate language, dressing provocatively, and taking chances with their lives by hooking up with men they meet online.
Before you spend money on Internet tracking tools or the latest software, I want to share 10 practical “non” technical” tips for keeping your child safe on the Internet.
At the age of 11, my daughter was 5’7”, wore a size 10-shoe, and rocked sister locs. She came home crying and told me that she didn’t like being taller than everyone else. The pain she felt took me back to my childhood where people would tell me I was “cute” to be so dark and how that comment made me feel ugly and awkward. Many of the horrible life decisions I made was based on trying to be good enough, and it was not until college that I let it go and started truly loving myself. The moment my daughter told me how she felt, I knew that she did not have to wait until college to start loving herself, and I was the person who could help her. Unfortunately as adults we are still holding on to some lie someone told us about ourselves, that we took as truth and unconsciously passed that lack of self-esteem and self-love onto our daughters and other young girls in our lives.
Our young girls are watching us, they are listening to us, they mimic us, and they are taking their cues from us. We are their movie…is your child watching a love story, a drama, or horror movie? When they hear us putting ourselves down, they are not analyzing us for self-esteem issues, they start wondering if they are good enough, and often times seek the answers and validation through their online behavior.
My daughter laughs at how I constantly tell her, “Your mommy is absolutely beautiful and fabulous.” She laughs, but I notice her confidence when she walks into a room, or she will say, “Mommy, I look just like you don’t I?” What impact would it have on her if I were still walking around complaining my skin color?
During my workshops with young girls it is sometimes hard to get them to say something good about themselves as they believe someone will think they are conceited. I call it celebrating their uniqueness, and by the end of the day they have written a long list of things they love about themselves in their “Always Believe” Journal. With that boost in self-esteem they talk about the different choices they would make on and off line. They are more apt to think about the consequences of their online behavior. A few girls talked about how their actions could keep them from being admitted to college, getting a job, or simply tarnish their reputations. This change comes in one afternoon, so think of the power you have over a lifetime.
Bottom-line: Girls who truly love and believe in themselves will think about the consequences of their online behavior and make different choices. They feel they have a future, they believe they can reach their goals, they don’t need other people to validate them, and they aren’t looking for a man to complete them.
10 Practical “non technical” tips for keeping your child safe on the Internet
- Make sure your comments about yourself are loving and kind.
- Teach people how to treat you and your daughter will do the same.
- Foster open communication about self-love and self-worth.
- Encourage your daughter to discuss her dreams and goals.
- Encourage your daughter to celebrate her uniqueness and discuss ways her being different is an advantage. Example: My daughter’s height has helped her to become a volleyball star! She now wishes she were taller.
- Think about what your daughter sees and hears when you interact with her dad or any other man.
- Give her a compliment.
- Get her involved in extra-curricular activities.
- Tell her your stories about what you experienced as a teen, let her know you too made mistakes.
- Make sure she feels safe enough to speak with you or some other trusted adult about anything.
I know this is not the “normal” type of advice you see on Internet Safety, but I am speaking from experience. I am speaking from the heart as a mommy and technology expert. We can boycott Facebook, throw all the computers out of the window, lobby on Capitol Hill, but none of that works better than good old fashion communication. No Excuses!
To contact Marlin for speaking engagements, media requests or more information : email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or call 313-649-5288