This article originally appeared in the Hoboken Reporter on December 9, 2012.
According to a 2010 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 spend triple the amount of time per day texting versus talking on their cell phones. You may be thinking – yeah, and…? This statistic is significant for a few reasons. First, kids growing up in a cyber nation are speaking a different language than their parents. Becoming bilingual in cyber talk is a crucial and fundamental skill that will allow parents to connect with kids in a meaningful way about risks such as cyber bullying and sexting – both of which are growing trends among youth. Second, your kids are smart – they listen to people who they think are credible and ignore those who they believe are clueless. After all, they know the internet better than you!
Quiz: Can you translate these cyber acronyms? (Answers at the end of article)
If you correctly translated the acronyms, give yourself a pat on the back! If you didn’t, I would guess you are among the majority of readers who had difficulty with it. At this point, you may be wondering what your next steps should be as a parent. Here are a few simple ideas you can implement now to safeguard your children and keep lines of communication open.
Become bilingual in cyber talk. Familiarize yourself with websites that give parents important translations so they can identify when there’s a problem. Check out the “Top 50 Internet Acronyms” from netlingo.com or “Chat Abbreviations” from I-safe.org.
Don’t pull the plug! Most children and teens living in our cyber nation define themselves by their online presence whether it’s through social networking sites like Facebook or more creative blog websites like Tumblr. Overreacting by taking away their cell phone or internet means taking away their identity. Kids will typically respond with anger and feel misunderstood by parents. Worst-case scenario is that you may be inadvertently teaching them to hide things from you. Instead, ask your child to teach you about their online persona. They will recognize that you acknowledge and respect their interests and in-turn will appreciate your concern and learn to respect your advice.
Prevention before intervention. Don’t assume that because your child isn’t online yet that he/she is immune to online risks. Take your child to the Kids Bridge Tolerance Museum on The College of New Jersey campus, which educates children and teens about tolerance, anti-bullying and character building. For more information check out www.kidsbridgemuseum.org.
P911 = Parent Alert
MorF = Male or Female
KPC = Keeping Parents Clueless
143 = I Love You
LMIRL = Let’s Meet In Real Life
If you suspect your child or teen is already involved in cyber bullying and/or sexting, contact your child’s school immediately. Don’t underestimate the severity of your child’s emotional reaction to these difficult situations including decreased confidence, depression, anxiety, isolative behavior, and increased anger/agitation. Link your child with a clinician who can enhance their coping skills and help them learn how to protect themselves from online risks.
Talia Filippelli, LCSW is the owner of Starr Psychotherapy in Hoboken. To learn more about therapeutic services for your family and how to communicate effectively with your children and teens, email Talia at email@example.com for your free consultation.
Talia Filippelli, LCSW
Owner of Starr Psychotherapy
306 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030