If you're a parent it's worth noting what transpired between Curt Schilling, retired baseball player, his daughter and a whole lot of really creepy, offensive individuals on Twitter today.
It's the perfect illustration of why parents absolutely must be vigilant about monitoring their kid's online behavior, and it has everything to do with the disturbing individuals out there, not your kid.
The proud dad sent a tweet congratulating his teenage daughter, Gabby, on her acceptance to college where she plans to pitch for the softball team.
Seems like a harmless proud parent moment, right? That's what Schilling thought, too. And it should have been just that.
But then the internet reared its ugly head. Tweets about Curt Schilling's daughter quickly escalated from “I’ll take care of her” and “Can’t wait to date her!” to horrifying, vulgar, violent threats that I'm not about to share in this forum. Trust me, they made me sick to my stomach. To say that they were disgusting is an incredible understatement.
When it comes to social media, the answer is, "You don't."
Schilling has managed to track down some of the individuals, though. As a result, one man has been fired and another suspended from community college. I'm thrilled that there are consequences.
The fact remains, however, that many people can make disgusting comments and face no repercussions. So they keep doing so. That means it is possible that they will direct their awfulness towards your kids.
So many parents tell me that they think their kid is fine, that they don't have a lot of followers, that they're good kids.
I have no doubt that all of that is true.
That doesn't change the fact that there are some truly sick, disturbed people, and others who are just idiots, all hanging out on the internet. There are a fair number of them. The comments made about Schilling's daughter came from multiple sources.
This isn't the first time this has happened (as the daughter of former Bears coach Mark Trestman can attest), and sadly, it won't be the last. You never know where they will pop up. That's why parents must stay vigilant.
Twitter does not have an age limit for use, but the Twitter Help Center, "Our Services are not directed to persons under 13." Even a 13, 15, or 17 year old needs help handling the creeps, and that's where parents come in. Be involved. And think before permitting your child to have an account. (Hint: they will survive even if they are "the only kid in the world" without one. Also, they're not as alone as they want you to think.)
If your kids do have accounts, monitor them. Know what's going on and be prepared to help your child process and understand trolls, creeps, and inappropriate behavior.
Even if disturbing messages are never directed specifically at your child, it's likely they will see something inappropriate. Chances that of Schillings 113,000 followers include kids.
Parents need to be able to help kids deal with such things when they see them, as kids should not be expected to automatically know how to process such graphic, upsetting content. It's an opportunity to discuss with them what is appropriate and what is not, and that's an ongoing conversation between kids and parents.
Schilling said it best in a post script directed to his teenage daughter, "I love you more than life itself and there is NOTHING I would not do to protect you."
Parents, know that when you monitor your kids' social media account, you are protecting them. You are doing your job.
For more on the topic, check out this post from LitzyDitz: "Social Media Etiquette: Teach your kid not to be a dick." (I know her choice of language in her title may not be for everyone.)
You can find more posts about digital parenting and keeping kids safe online here.
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