Parenting experts suggest using headlines and news stories as a good way to start conversations with your kids, especially about tricky subjects, and make important points to your tweens and teens and sometimes talking about real life events makes those conversations easier and more relevant for all parties.
Tonight, I used the headline "Florida man accused of sexually abusing 12-year-old girl in Portland after meeting her on Instagram" as a conversation starter with my teen tonight about predators on Instagram and elsewhere on social media and the Internet.
Many people see Instagram as the safest of the social media platforms. While that may be true, and while my daughter has had a positive experience in the five months that she has had an account, current events serve an important reminder that there is no guarantee of safety anywhere, especially online, and that our kids need to know how to take steps to keep themselves safe.
Teens may roll their eyes when you talk about dangerous people online, but news stories are evidence that bad things can and do happen and bad people are out there. They may not be common, thank goodness, but it's more difficult for the age group that feels pretty darn invincible to write you off when you talk about a headline or news story you've read or watched together.
The conversations that come from such instances are also good opportunities to discuss how to avoid those bad things, and you can use hypothetical questions about the scenario in the news as an intro to "what if" scenarios and role play.
Here are some of the questions asked my teen:
* What would she have done if she was in the position of the girl in this case? How she would respond to requests for naked photos as the perpetrator in this case requested? What about requests for her phone number and address?
* How does she think this man initiated their conversation on the app? Should you be wary when someone, especially someone you don't know, is very flattering? You don't have to be suspicious of everyone, but you should be careful.
* Should you believe everything people say on the Internet? What are her thoughts about meeting people she has only interacted with online?
* What would she do if a friend confided in her about a similar scenario?
This was a good opportunity to review that sharing information with an adult to keep a friend safe is reporting, not tattling. (You can read more about this important distinction that Dr. Michele Borba makes here.)
The conversation was a chance to reiterate that she can come to me with anything, and that protecting a friend, or herself, will not get her in trouble. Another point was that no matter how far in she got to a bad situation, it is never too late to ask for help. Never.
We covered some pretty heavy material, so to remind her that there are also very good people in the world, we also talked about this news story, "Nashville mom thanks Apple employee who helped son with special needs," and how a little kindness goes a long way and makes the world a better place.
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Filed under: Parenting