“I liked your song,” my pastor’s son said, laughing as he passed me by.
“How long did it take you to write it?”
The song he was referring to was a (shortened) rewrite of Tupac’s “California Love” that my husband and I had practiced on the ride over to our friend’s birthday party. I had spent the previous day shaking my head at our silliness for thinking of trying to attempt the rap. The performance (if you could call it that) was in front of a small group of friends, but one of our audience members captured that special moment on film.
“You know it’s going to go viral, right?”
I laughed at the thought of our rap parody going viral, but the reality of is that (if it had been good enough, funny enough or sensational enough) it very well could go viral. This is a point that—when caught up in the moment—our kids (and plenty of adults) often forget.
In today’s world, our kids carry around technology that allows them to be a videographer, producer and publisher. With just a few clicks, any and every moment exchanged online in text or documented via videophone or picture phone can be uploaded/copied/pasted/posted/forwarded for the whole world to see. It’s very difficult to keep any moment private in this virtual age, and that’s a message that, as parents, we must help our kids understand.
I have worked with so many teens and tweens that have been devastated when nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves get forwarded beyond the intended recipient. In one case, a girl’s boyfriend convinced her to allow him to film her giving him a blowjob. Of course the boy showed his friends the film, and, later, when they broke up, the film spread around all around the school and later to the world beyond.
Any and everything can, and often will, go viral to some degree, because our kids have such easy access to the technology that enables them to capture every moment and the resources that allow them to spread those moments to one another through a wide and varried network of peers and connections across the world. We need to help our kids think before they post, forward, type or “perform”—if they wouldn’t want their high school, or the world, to get a copy of that picture, video or chat conversation, then it’s probably not the sort of picture, video or chat conversation that should ever be in existence.
We have some really helpful information to help you start a dialogue with your kids about being safe online and addressing issues such as sexting and cyberbullying that I would encourage you to check out today. Make sure you are informed about the technology your kids are using and consider using parental controls (like SafeEyes) on all Internet-enabled devices (phones, computers, laptops, gaming consoles, etc.), which can help flag inappropriate conversations and content. The next time you discover your son or daughter engaging in questionable behavior, ask them if they would really want that moment, picture, conversation or video to go viral, because if they don’t then it’s time to stop, delete and walk away.