Monday, December 22, 2014

Your Child Is On Vacation, But The Cyberbullies Aren't

Did you know that kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
Abuse alcohol and drugs
Experience in-person bullying
Drop out of school
Receive poor or failing grades
Have lower self-esteem
Have more health and mental health problems
Display anger, frustration, and a variety of other emotional and psychological problems
Begin to cut themselves
Commit suicide
70% of students say they see frequent bullying online.
81% of youth think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person. (no face-to-face contact, wider audience for revenge, more invasive and around-the-clock harassment possible) in the virtual world.
Approximately 10 to 20 percent of youths experience cyberbullying regularly, particularly overweight and LGBT kids!

It’s Abuse, 24/7.

With a loooong vacation, or so it seems for parents, kids will be tethered even more so to their cell phones and laptops.  Without the structure of school and daily homework, your children will have more free time to text and receive them from bullies. To monitor cyberbullying at any time, teach your kids to:
Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
Tell their friends to stop cyberbullying.
Block communication with cyberbullies; delete messages without reading them.
Never post or share their or their friends’ personal information online.
Never share their Internet passwords with anyone, but you.
Not put anything online that they wouldn’t want their classmates to see, even in email.
Not send messages when they’re angry or upset.
Remind your child that she should not send any message or photo that she would regret having copied and dispersed widely.
         Source: National Crime Prevention Council

How You Can Monitor Your Child’s Technology Use

Keep the computer in a well-traveled area of the house so you can supervise.
Limit data access to your child’s smart phone if he or she uses it to surf the web. Some wireless providers allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours.
You can set up filters on your child’s computer with tracking software.  This blocks inappropriate web content.
Know your child’s passwords and learn common acronyms kids use online and in text messages.
Who is on your child’s “buddy list” and address book?  Find out.
Encourage your child to tell you or another trusted adult if they are cyberbullied and reassure them that this does not constitute tattletelling or loss of computer or cell phone privileges.

Sexting On the Rise: What Parents Can Do

While you are discussing cyberbullying with your kids, include a discussion on sexting (sending text messages with sexual content and images).  It can be a type of child exploitation.  In some states, minors who take sexually suggestive photographs of themselves and send them to others can be criminally charged with distribution of child pornography!  Your minor could be registered as a sex offender. In July 2012, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reported that nearly 30% of teens say they sent nude photos of themselves via text or E-mail!
Discuss the social and legal consequences of sexting.  Sharing too much information on the internet can potentially damage your child’s future or ruin their reputation.
Teach your child that just because a photo is deleted on their mobile phone or social networking site, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t archived elsewhere.
You can establish a phone curfew or have your service provider disable some functions such as the camera or picture messaging.
Services such as My Mobile Watch Dog or Phone Sheriff can monitor your child’s cell phone use.

What Does A Parent Do If Child is Cyberbullied

Don’t reply to cyberbullying.  However, you should save the harassing messages and/or sexually explicit pictures and report them to the police.
Report incidents to the ISP, the cell phone company, and to any web site used in the cyberbullying.
Change your child’s email address or phone number.  Block the cyberbully’s e-mail address or cell phone number.
You could contact the offender’s parents if you know the bully or notify your child’s school. Many schools have established protocols for handling cyberbullying.

Vacation + No School = Ideal Environment For Bullying

Whether your child is on vacation or in school, be sure to monitor their internet usage. However, with holidays, be extra vigilant!

Monday, December 15, 2014

It Could Happen To You When You Least Expect It!

Last week, I wrote about what not to say when your child comes out.  Due to the many distractions of the holidays, I also suggested that this is the worst time for anyone to come out as he/she will not be heard. However, as some LGBT kids only see their families on major holidays, they may feel it’s an appropriate to divulge the news at this time.

Advice From the LGBT Child

What’s a parent to do in this case?  Some clues came to me through a graduate student at Indiana University.  He came out for the first time when he was 19 over Thanksgiving weekend (another hectic time).  His brave news was met with anger, disbelief, denial, and the urge to reform him. Nasty e-mails, phone calls followed and threats of withholding funds for college, much to no avail.

Parental Response Not So Unusual

When he was home again, the same questions were posed: “Are you sure?” “How would you know?” “You never dated in high school?”  “Your soul is endangered! You will go to Hell!” C. (don’t want to divulge his name as he is planning on coming out again, this time five years later). answered with short replies, followed by silence, then the questions would start all over again.

Tedious, yes! Unnerving, you bet.  With time, many parents usually come around to accepting their child’s sexual orientation.  However, in this case, the acceptance that C. craved, has not shone forth.  Despite his initial plea “this is who I am” he saw that his parents wouldn’t change and last summer, he told them that he was “straight” just so they wouldn’t “bug” him anymore. “It was like they had amnesia.  Suddenly, everything was “hunky-dory.”

Parents & Gay Son Hanging By A Thread

However, this charade has taken its toll on him.  He doesn’t like to “split” holidays, but this year, he is going to his roommate boyfriend’s parents’ home, where they are accepted, in Las Vegas, and then will see his parents alone later during his holiday.  This “dancing around” the issue will soon cease as he is preparing to come out again.

Second Coming Out

Wiser, he thinks the coming out will proceed better this time.  What will he do differently?
Not tell them over a holiday.
Tell his parents that if they want to see him, they must accept him as a gay man and welcome his partner of over a year.
Keep his parents’ attitudes in mind while divulging yet again.

What does C. wish from his parents?

That although his parents may feel shame, guilt, fear, anger, so does he, their child.  It’s a similar journey for both.  “We have to see each other’s perspective and be in each other’s shoes, no matter how hard that is,” says C.
While parents may be jealous of their friends with heterosexual children, they can still experience the joy of having a son/daughter-in-law and the celebration of events. The LGBT child, like C, who is not given unconditional love and support at home, will also be jealous of a family that accepts their child’s sexual orientation.
Admiration for all that he has accomplished in life: top academic honors, positions in leadership clubs, jobs well done. He’s still the same person inside that his folks have always known. His gayness will not erase those good qualities.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coming Outs Don't Belong At Christmas

Picture this:  Your mother in her Santa sweater, your father in his red tie with tiny green wreaths in a home garlanded like Auntie Mamie’s duplex.  Sis, decked out in velvet, is pouring eggnog for your Aunt Betty and Uncle Ralph as her brother keeps an eye on her munchkins who are pulling the candy canes from the tree. Mom is orchestrating the perfect gravy with cousin Susan in the kitchen.

Enter Stage Left Through A Door Adorned with Sleigh Bells

The prodigal gay son with his significant other who everyone thought was his buddy.  Son introduces his friend as his boyfriend and announces that he is gay.

Conversation halts.  Boyfriend is embarrassed.  Mom and Dad are speechless. Everyone is uncomfortable.  Now the holiday is all about you. What’s wrong with this picture?

Act I Didn’t Get Rave Reviews

Holidays, while a gathering time for families, should not be used as a platform for coming out. It will make your holiday insufferably long.

Parents need time to process the information.  Even though they may know in their hearts that you are gay, it is different to hear it from the source!  Your important pronouncement deserves discussion in a non-distractable atmosphere and respect from those who need time to digest this earth-shaking news. Hectic holiday pace may cause family members to act strangely.

When Is A Good Time?

Although you may be bursting to tell your parents or feel an obligation to tell them because they have raised you, be sure the surroundings are compatible.
Choose a more relaxed time – perhaps a summer picnic, day at the beach, a non-holiday weekend.
Before you arrive home, you can make a decision about “being out” to each family member.
You may consider writing a letter that can be revisited several times by family members.
Discuss in advance how you will talk about relationships during your visit.
Connect with someone else who is LGBT who has experience coming out to get advice on breaking the news.

If you know in advance that your parents are homophobic and may try to eject you during the holidays, consider spending the holiday with a “chosen” family, one that is positive about your sexual orientation and will be supportive in your journey towards self-affirmation.

For more tips, see my blog's-No-Place-For-Coming-Out-for-the-holidays/12/23/13 and
PFLAG (Parents for Families and Gays), with nationwide chapters, also has advice on coming out