Cyber Safety – Part II – Help, Hope, & Healing
Research shows that scare tactics backfire. They don’t encourage healthier behaviors! So, how do I talk about these very real risks without freaking readers out? I want them to THINK about how to address these issues – not run away from them! That’s what I said to myself once looked at what I’d drafted for this post. I decided to start over, making sure to emphasize the HELP, HOPE, and HEALING available for kids and their families before and after talking about cyber concerns.
There are some terrific resources available for parents and kids who want to learn more about staying safe online and while using social media:
• Cyberbullying Research Center
• Federal Trade Commission – Online Security
I Keep Talking About Cybersafety Because…
A 4th grader told me that his mom got really upset when she saw $500 of unauthorized charges on her Visa statement and found out that he’d given her card number to an online “friend” who promised to use it to buy a game they could play.
A kid I was talking with said he was afraid to walk home from school because he’d been told via an anonymous app that he was going to be “jumped.”
A client told me that “friends” from school had forwarded her texts about highly sensitive issues – including her sexual assault.
A mother told me that she’d had no idea that her elementary school-aged child knew how to livestream on YouTube, until the FBI discovered risqué videos of that child on the computer of a man who’d been arrested for possessing child pornography.
A child I was evaluating described her correspondence with a member of what was later determined to be a terrorist cell in a foreign country.
A client told me that “everyone” at her school had seen the video of her sexual assault sent via social media by one of the perpetrators.
I talked with a father seeking help for his child who’d been raped by a man she’d met online and agreed to meet in person.
A teen described overhearing the men who raped her and held her against her will talking about the web page they were going to create to list how much they’d charge for various sex acts with her.
A girl told me that peers on social media told her she should kill herself – and sent her links to articles explaining how she could.
I feel compelled here to quote humor writer Dave Barry: I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! Alas, there’s Help, Hope, and Healing – REALLY! These can be scary times for kids and adults. However, no one needs to struggle with these issues alone. Family Support Line is committed to helping kids, families, teachers, therapists, and other members of our community identify and address safety concerns that arise through social media and other communication technologies. Our Sexual Abuse Prevention & Education Program offers FREE – yes, FREE! – cybersafety programs for children, teens, parents, and professionals. You can contact me at kelly@FamilySupportLine.org to learn more about them. Family Support Line’s Forensic Interviewers, Family Advocates, and other staff at the Delaware County Children’s Advocacy Center (DCCAC) are ready to talk with kids and their families when texts, social media, and other online activity has been part of an experience of sexual abuse/exploitation. First, a report must be made to one of the following:
The police or another law enforcement agency, such as the PA Internet Crimes Against Children [ICAC] Task Force or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (800.CALL FBI);
Pennsylvania’s CHILDLINE child welfare hotline (1.800.932.0313); or
The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.
Our Treatment Program offers individual and family therapy, consultation, education, and support for kids and families affected by sexual trauma that involved social media or other communication technologies. Call me at 610.268.9145 ext. 14 to learn more.
Other resources for those struggling with trauma include:
• Delaware County Crisis Connection Team – 855.889.7827
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800.273.8255
• The Trevor Project.org – aimed at LGBTQ youth
• Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery
• National Child Traumatic Stress Network
• Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN.org)
• National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
Please reach out if you or someone you know needs HELP, HOPE, or HEALING.