After blogging for more than five years, I have logged a great deal of time on the internet. As a result, I’ve had a wide variety of experiences and I have learned a lot. A whole lot. Because knowledge is power, I wanted to share that information with you. Hopefully it starts some conversations with your kids.
There’s a lot of good on the internet.
I’ve seen some remarkable acts of true kindness, often between people who have never met.
People online share helpful information and resources, support each other, and build communities – all of which is wonderful.
People have united to change the world.
When I see goodness, I point it out to my teen. I encourage and expect her to put kindness into both the visual and real worlds. Help kids understand what a wonderful tool the internet can be.
There is also a lot of bad on the internet.
Few things in life fall into the categories of all good or all bad, and the internet is certainly no exception. It is a double-edged sword, to be sure.
There are scary people, including a fair number of child predators. There are also people looking to do harm to others, physically or financially.
Aside from the scary people, there’s a boat load of negativity. I’ve had commenters tell me that I am unfit to parent, that I’m perpetrating sexism and that I am awful excuse for a human being.
I’ve been called a host of really offensive names for a variety of reasons, including that I occasionally drove my child to elementary school and that I dislike Starbucks’ smores frappuccinos. (The horror!)
I’ve even had someone set up an email account with the name “[email protected]” to tell me how much I suck. I’m guessing that with the unusual spelling of my first name that that wasn’t just a coincidence, but hey, you never know.
Frankly, “delete your account” seems downright polite now.
When you go online, be aware. Know how you are going to handle threats. Remember that taking a screen shot and reporting are among the first actions you should take. Be prepared for criticism, often when you least expect or deserve it.
The internet is powerful.
As the two prior points illustrate, the internet is remarkably powerful.
Remember that with power comes responsibility.
In fact, there are television shows made about how quickly and dramatically the internet has changed people’s lives, including The Internet Ruined My Life.
There is a surprising number of people online with a surprising amount of free time.
I’m guessing that you rarely sit down at your computer and think “I have nothing at all to do and no responsiblities to tend to right now.” You have a full life that often keeps you busy, I suspect. Most people I know would say that’s true for them.
That is not, however, true for a lot of people online. Take the gentleman above who created an email account just to express his dislike of me. I know that’s not a huge time investment, but it did take at least a few minutes. There are people who have commented on things I’ve posted, saying “I don’t comment on posts that do X, Y, and Z.” I want to point out that they actually did comment, but, well, I don’t. Which brings me to my next point.
You can’t fight crazy.
When it comes to trolls, haters, people having really bad days and taking it out on bloggers they don’t know, I have a rule: don’t engage. It took me a while to learn this one, and I’d love to save you the time, if I can.
I tried to be polite, but it turns out that even “let’s agree to disagree” is a waste of your time (because you really do have better things to do) and it is giving them exactly what they want – interaction, or a reaction. Don’t feed the beast.
Trust that the rest of the reasonable world will see that you were logical, insightful, funny, and more. And you might be surprised that others will be upstanders for you.
You have very little control of what you post online. Actually, you have no control. None.
Once you share words, photos, images, anything online, you have released it to the universe. And literally anything can happen after you do that, including:
- people claiming your work as their own,
- companies using what you’ve shared for commercial purposes without permission,
- individuals posting your links on a webpage and encouraging others to head to your site and tell you that you suck,
- websites using your photos to sell products that are not actually in the photos,
- people completely misinterpreting what you’ve written,
- posts going viral and being read by 1 million people.
All of those have happened to me as least once. And I’ve had posts go crazy viral twice. If you want to feel vulnerable, have 1 million people read something you’ve written. It’s oddly terrifying, in part because you can’t control how people interpret your work. That lack of control is scary. Invariably, people will take something in a manner other than what you intended, even those close to you.
The best way to address it is to be very careful when you post. Think about it. Then think about it again. Remember that there is no requirement that you post something online. If you’re not certain, don’t share/post/publish it.
The internet can be a great way to bond with your tweens and teens.
Whether laughing over a funny animal video, sharing a great meme or using a headline as a conversation starter (because kids are far more likely to start taking about people other than themselves). It can be a great way to find resources and support.
The internet can be a wonderful way to find a community of parents on the same or similar roller coaster ride of raising adolescents that you are.
May you and your family use it in good health and may it bring good things your way.