Some time ago, on a TV reality show, a guy who was a professional stripper was introduced. From his way of joking around with the show’s host and how pleased he was with the audience’s praise, it was clear that he knew he had a beautiful body and was visibly quite proud of it. Seeing him so satisfied, I remember having thought: “why is this guy so pleased to attract ten – maybe hundred, even a thousand – dirty looks, when, for us to be happy, a look from just one person who loves us is enough?”
That evening I thought a lot about the fact that the body is not just a "shell", which can be worn, torn up, or thrown away as the wrapping paper of a gift; it is not something "outside of us:" with it we are in the world, we relate to each other, and choose "how to give ourselves to others." We can throw it away as something that doesn’t matter, or rather give it consciously, respecting our dignity.
Because children should grow up aware that their body is not an "accessory" and it is priceless, a serious educational “job” on the part of the parents is necessary. They play a fundamental role in making children understand that it is important to protect their privacy and to avoid giving themselves away as if they were purely goods to be exchanged.
It is primarily up to parents to teach the value and the boundaries of authentic sharing and to warn them of the danger of showing anyone, carelessness , their private life.
Internet, when it comes to these aspects, poses many challenges: with the network, the risk of "selling out" or performing on a soapbox is more real than ever before. And yet, the educational mission begins outside of the web.
Here are some tips to help parents teaching their children how to have respect for their privacy, maintaining a sense of modesty, and learning the difference between public and private, whether they are offline or online.
1) Know that your children's "online life" concerns you
Kids are very skilled in the use of new technologies and, not infrequently, they are the ones that teach their parents or grandparents how to use super-equipped cell phones, tablets, computers, or any other device that enter our homes.
Often, therefore, as noted in the article Beware with the Net and your intimacy. Teaching children about the difference between public and private, adults tend to not consider themselves particularly responsible for their children’s’ "media education," believing to have little to tell young people about this subject.
Yet, the educational aspects related to adolescent behavior on the Internet are your responsibility: it is mainly up to you to teach them to have respect for their own privacy, convey the sense of modesty, and help them to recognize the difference between public, private and intimate even on the web.
2) Remember how you were at their age and also rely on the lessons drawn from your own mistakes
Every parent was once a child and a teenager. The rebellion against adults and the rules, therefore, is typical for young people, and probably you too, who are now trying to teach your children, were once a rebel.
For this reason, it may be useful to remember how you felt, what helped you to reflect, and what made you become more closed off. Trying to put yourself in the kids’ shoes – trying to understand what they feel and what they think – instead of "imposing an adult vision from above," can be a good way to help the children to grow.
As for the Internet, you might think that since you did not have this tool available when a child, you cannot understand what they are experiencing. Yet, remember that the Internet is a "public town square" and amplifies behaviors or trends that teenagers would also have outside the network.
Remember, therefore, that it is on the psyche and behavior of your children that you are called to intervene with educational rules.
At your children’s age, you too made mistakes that you ever since has regretted, even regarding respect for the body and your intimacy. Tell your children, with prudence and delicacy, of the mistakes you have made in your youth, express your shame and your repentance: in their eyes, your testimony matters much more than the judgment or the imposition you can give.
Trusting a child, by telling something intimate about your past, will help him to trust you in turn.
As explained very well in the article Educating children and teenagers about modesty trust has to be gained, it cannot be imposed.
3) Do not be afraid to speak clearly to your children
An authentic education about media starts from the very person who uses it. Parents must hold this in mind if they want to educate children about respecting their body on the Internet.
If it is true that the Internet is a very powerful tool, which amplifies the positive and the negative, it is also true that the network would not exist if there were no people connected to each other.
When we think that the Internet "causes damage," we must remember that it is our behavior that makes the difference.
For example, before telling girls that it is shameful to post photos in which they are poorly dressed, it is better to explain them why it is not respectful of themselves to wear that way.
Do not be afraid to tell your children that "denuding" in front of everyone (whether on the net or wherever they go) will only attract improper looks and cause people to not be interested in seeing the beauty that is inside of them.
When children become teenagers, often, parents are more embarrassed and inhibited than peers in addressing issues such as sexuality and modesty. Yet young people need guidance, to help them navigate the many messages they receive.
The parent must be prepared for an apparent refusal, when he goes to propose a point of view in contrast with the surrounding environment: the child will seem to not listen; instead, in most cases, the words of the parent dig the deepest furrows in his soul.
4) Explain that it is nice, sometimes, to go against the flow... in life as well as online
If there's one thing that frightens a teenager, it is nonconformity, being different in appearance and behavior from peers.
He needs the approval of the pack to have security, while loneliness and isolation are his biggest fears.
A parent must understand this phase of life and must not expect the child to become an adult in a single day. At the same time, however, moms and dads can and must guide their children to maturity as adults and show them, also by giving concrete examples, that going against the tide is sometimes much better than following the mass.
Offer your children this option. Try to make them understand that living as an original is much better than acting as a photocopy: explain to them that reasoning with their own head and following values will pay off much more in the long term.
This holds true in every field – even when it involves the Internet: it is necessary to explain to children that to publish vulgar phrases or drawings, use a bad language, or add photos in undignified poses only "because others do it" will not give them any advantage. Respecting oneself and doing things out of conviction will be much more fruitful and fulfilling.
5) Explain that nudity is synonymous with vulnerability: trust is needed to have confidence in one another
Internet makes the border between public and private blurry, and children can be tempted not to protect their privacy, to show others information about themselves that should remain private or that should be shared only with a small circle of people.
The task of the parent, then, will be to remind everyone that their feelings, their sufferings, their successes and failures can give others power over them that may leave room to be abused.
Nudity implies vulnerability; therefore, before entrusting private things to someone it is necessary to establish a relationship of trust that can be created only by you for you. Sharing on the web is something that is rooted in human relationality and, within certain limits, it is healthy. It is necessary, however, to explain that certain personal information should be shared with caution, inside and outside the web.
Do you readers have some more advice to offer? Do you want to share your anything about your experience on this subject? You can do this by leaving a comment.