I often find myself talking to BIG (my 17 yr old) about the importance of digital citizenship. Typically, I get the “yeah, I know mom” and then he ends the conversation. Even if I keep talking, I can tell he’s no longer listening.
A few months ago, I shared a news story on this topic and suddenly I had his full attention. I shared an article about how Harvard just rescinded 10 admissions offers to students after discovering that they had posted offensive memes on Facebook. There’s no denying that the memes were sexually explicit, racist and totally offensive. But, what was particularly impactful when talking to my son about the story is that the students had posted them to a PRIVATE Facebook group. This fact is what makes sharing this particular news story with teens so impactful. Too often in today’s digital world, where most teens have access to social media in the palm of their hands, they are under the misassumption that there are actually places online where their postings are private. This was a great opportunity to have a real life discussion, with a relevant example, demonstrating that people’s online behavior and their digital footprints truly do have real life consequences and that nothing posted online is truly ever private.
This experience also illustrated the benefit of using topical news stories to initiate important conversations with my kids. We had a thoughtful conversation about an important topic without him getting defensive. I know I had his full attention. I’ve continued to use this strategy with him and it’s made a huge difference in his receptiveness.
Now that Middle is in 6th grade, I’ve started sharing news article on the devastating impact of online bullying and how posts can have debilitating effects on people’s self esteem.