Monthly Archives: October 2011

Could your child be gay?

Paula, with permission by DavidKnoxJust came across a fabulous article on Parenting.com about the questions a parent might have regarding their child’s sexuality. No matter how much we might come to accept and respect sexuality as diverse and complex, many parents secretly worry about whether their own child might be gay, lesbian or bisexual. This might because they worry they will face discrimination and their lives will be harder, less traditional, somehow unlike their own. Or they might harbour misconceptions about disease and morality or believe homosexuality is a sin.

No matter the reason for the underlying worry, the first rule of good parenting always applies: find a way to love your child for who they are, not who you want them to be.

Author Stephanie Dolgoff explains that kids may experiment with all kinds of gender positions while young, so parents shouldn’t be concerned if their 4-year-old son dresses up like a Disney Princess or their daughter develops an obsession with playing hockey. However, evidence suggests that consistent long-term preference for clothing, styles, interests or activities usually associated with the opposite sex may well be an indication of your child’s emerging sexuality.

Even more important, experts say that there is nothing a parent does to “turn” their kid gay, just as there is nothing you can do to “turn” them heterosexual.

The most important thing: Find a way to love and accept your child for who s/he is. Not doing so can have terrible consequences. Kids facing rejection from their families are nine times more likely to attempt suicide. New research published in the medical journal Pediatrics also suggests that lesbian, gay or bisexual kids who experience strong rejection from their parents are nearly six times more likely to experience serious depression and three to five times more likely to use illegal drugs or have unprotected sex.

“You need to make the decision that your child’s happiness and safety is totally unrelated to his sexual orientation,” says Judy Shepard, cofounder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a group that works to foster a more accepting environment for all people, including the LGBT community. In 1998 in Wyoming, Shepard’s 21-year-old son was beaten, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay. “It can be hard, though. Many parents feel they are responsible. They think, ‘What did I do wrong?”

Read the rest of the Parenting.com article here.

And, as always, I highly recommend parents and kids turn to Scarleteen.com for solid, fact, based, non-judgmental sexual health information.

Privacy 2.0: what your kids should never ever post online

No matter where they were from, it’s a pretty good bet our grandparents were very careful about what personal details they revealed to anyone. What happened within household walls (not to mention bedroom walls) was sacred, not for anyone else’s ears.

And while our parents may have been slightly less strict about this, the general rule was probably the same: personal information was kept private. Intimate details about our families, our bodies, our relationships, our homes and finances were not for sharing. Television, unauthorized biographies and gossip magazines were starting to change our perception of what should be private, but most people still showed care over what could be aired in public.

In the world in which we are raising our kids, it seems as if everything has changed. The rise of Web 2.0, where everyone has a blog, Facebook account and YouTube channel, means we have come to mine the minutiae of our lives for the interest of others. Everything that happens to us is potential Content, anecdotes that might interest our potential public. As one of my university students observed in class last year, we are always performing to an invisible camera.

It’s a lot of pressure to come up with that much content, particularly when you need to continuously groom and fine tune your digital persona. Suddenly, the argument you had with your friend on the way to school or the strange behavior of that kid in History class can seem like entertaining material. It’s hard to blame our kids for thinking that everything that happens to them is potential fodder for self-publicity when they are surrounded by examples of this all over the Internet, in magazines and on TV.

But if the very notion of privacy has changed, we as parents have to be particularly vigilant in helping our kids maintain some boundaries (and observing them ourselves).

Some material should never be online because it poses potential threats to our safety. That includes identifying information such as your address, home telephone number, daily whereabouts (using Foursquare or Facebook Places). Some of this information may be encoded in the pictures you post from your Smartphone, so educate yourself here about metadata. Aside from the concern of online predators and stalkers, personal information made public makes us vulnerable to personal identity theft, an experience that can take years of frustration to remedy and damage your reputation and credit rating.

Other material should never be put online because it can prove embarrassing and potentially hurtful to you later on. Pictures that show people drunk, unconscious, high, engaged in illegal or immoral activities or doing stuff that most people would find stupid (car surfing, vandalism, etc.) will only haunt you later on when it comes time to apply to college, find a job, start a business, find a spouse or run for public office.

Parents should remember this when posting pictures of their kids on the potty or doing cute but embarrassing little kid stuff. Those toddlers are going to grow up and resent having those pictures committed to the Internet.

Finally, your kids should never, ever post anything online that could be embarrassing or potentially hurtful to others. We take the power of the Internet for granted but it is an awesome responsibility. Teens don’t always realize that irony does not translate well in text; you can’t mitigate the words with the tone of voice that might have made it clear you were “just joking” when you called someone a particular name, referred to their appearance, sexuality, weight, accomplishments, etc. Cyberbullying is a serious issue, and even “good” kids can make poor judgment calls when it comes to posting potentially hurtful material about others.

Contrary to the schoolyard chant, words can really hurt. This past week’s suicide of a high school boy in Ottawa is just one more tragic name added to a list of kids tormented by bullying online and off.

Because privacy is not only about maintaining our own dignity; it is also about respecting the dignity of others.

Kids can overlook this, through lack of sophistication, experience and tech savvy. It is our duty as parents and educators to make sure they never forget it. That means:

  • frequently talking about these issues and responsibilities;
  • making regular reviews of their email and Facebook pages a condition of access to these tools, until they have proven consistent responsible behavior;
  • establishing a clear, consistent and appropriate set of consequences for breaches, such as temporarily “grounding” their access to these accounts.

Girl targetted by cyberbullying gets hearing with Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case involving a teenage girl targetted by a cyberbullying campaign on Facebook in March 2010, when she was 15 years old. The girl, known by initials A.B. to protect her identity, found out that someone had created a fake Facebook profile for her using a variation of her name, along with her photo and other identifying characteristics.

The court’s website reports that the fake profile “also discussed the applicant’s physical appearance, her weight, and allegedly included scandalous sexual commentary of a private and intimate nature.” The profile has since been taken down.

The Court agreed to the girl’s petition to force the web hosting provider to disclose the identity of the person who created the profile based on their IP address, but refused her request on a partial publication ban on the details that were posted on the website.

This is important, because protecting her identity in the case is a significant part of protecting her from further torment. A CBC News report on the case said this case will weigh the best interests of someone who has been cyberbullied against the public’s right to transparency in legal matters.

According to the Court, the case is about “the inherent vulnerability of young girls subject to on-line sexualized bullying and serious risk of harm to them if  they are required to republish comments and reveal their identity to seek a  remedy.”

Given all of this, and the ordeal this teenager has already been through, one has to question why it’s necessary to parade her through the court system in a public way. Hasn’t she suffered enough? What does the Canadian public gain in connecting embarrassing, false comments about her weight and sexual behaviour to the actual identity of a minor?

At very least, this case does represent an important example of cyberbullying being tested for the crime it is in the highest court of the land. It also promises to expose the identities of the bully(ies) behind the fake Facebook profile, assuming they were not successful in hiding their real IP address. This hearing, expected to make its way to docket by October 2012, will definitely be one to watch.

Montreal Families Magazine’s Blogger