About a decade ago, a previous CEO with tendencies toward tyranny forced me to have lunch with one of our interns. I was slammed, but she said it was a favor to her, which I was, at the time, collecting as currency.
So I begrudgingly went to lunch with a muppet named Izzy Neis. A muppet who through the course of our lunch, endeared herself to me. I spent the next handful of years trying to help her become a force in the kids online scene.
She has long since become said force in our industry (and then some) and has also become one of my best friends. Her blog post today for MMS really made me remember why on both counts.
Read and learn. Then pass on this info to your own current or future children.
AN OPEN LETTER TO MY FUTURE CHILD WHO DOESN’T EXIST
- Duck lips: Don’t do it. Whatever the future version of “Instagram” is when you’re digitally active – avoid the duck lips at all costs, UNLESS you’re dressed like a duck. It’s not cute, sweet heart, I don’t care what your friends do or say.
- Nudey pics: There’s a time and a place, and it’s when you’re a baby in the bathtub – and I promise, I won’t post those online (I’ll only show them to your future fian–oh god, I’m getting ahead of myself – where has the time gone? You’re not even born yet! *sob*). We’ve all had our parents take those nudey bathtub pics, yes. But that’s where it should end. Don’t take nudey pics.
- Potty language: Just because your friends think its fun to curse and say rude things on Twitter doesn’t mean that it’s going to be fun for you when I see it. And if you think you can hide a Twitter or Facebook account from me? Think again – you don’t know who your momma is…. I will stalk you until the ends of your days. Not a threat – a promise.
- Your behavior online is a reflection of me. Straight up. Your actions online affect me, our family, my livelihood, and future meals on the table. Not enough people explain this to their children – but it is the truth. Even when you’re 40 years old, and I’m aging beautifully in my Squatter’s apartment on Main Street in Disney World (long story), your actions will reflect who I am, your aunt & uncle, your grandparents, your best friends, and our family name. Have pride in us.
- Empathy & Understanding. It’s hard growing up these days (or in the future days, which I don’t understand yet), particularly online where you can see inner thoughts of developing minds splashed across profiles and smart phone applications. If you mess up, I will understand – as long as you help me understand. And that goes for your friends – if they mess up, forgive them and find a way to move forward. There’s no such thing as “black & white” – ask for meaning and context, be curious and loving. It’s the Muppet way.
- “Because I said so.” -> if I say this, I am sorry. I’m tired or frustrated, and I need a moment. Take a breath, maybe gimme a wee hug, and say “Momma, I don’t understand.” You will win a legit response every time.
- Getting into spats with peers / trolls / friends / siblings: They’re going to happen. Remind me to tell you about Sweet Brown. She has this lovely message that I’ve really taken to my heart. Because, at the end of the day, getting hurt by someone else? Yeah: “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” We can discuss further over dinner.
- The exception: Bullies. Bullies are bored, bothered, sad creatures who are missing a piece of themselves. They strive to be cruel because they are not-whole. If you’re being bullied, it’s because they see that you have that piece they are missing, and they’re jealous. Bullies will always exist. Bullies try to make you weak, and they’re difficult to vanquish, but when you do, you will gain 2x the strength, as long as you do it with respect and understanding. I will help you. I will help your friends. Together we will be clever, strong, and we will remove the bully, or we will help the bully find his/her missing piece.
- Please remember how special you are. It’s because you’re special that I ask you to keep parts of your “truth” private. Privacy will always be an asset and always be a challenge. The idea of a “stranger” online is still being defined. The digital world allows for so many new interactions, and I never want to stifle your curiosity in other people, cultures, or ideals. I just need you to understand that YOU have a responsibility of keeping yourself safe, and that entails quite a bit of cleverness on your part. We must be like Clark Kent, and protect our identities in order to protect our families, friends, and our personal safety. I will explain to you what “private information” is a thousand times, and you (via osmosis) will become an expert about safety and online behavior. Sometimes, though, it will be easy to let your guard down and share with someone – talk to me if this happens.
- I’m sorry that I’m a horrible mom and won’t let you charge your smart phone in your room after lights-out. I know I “suck” for not allowing a TV or a computer or a tablet or a laptop to exist as a feature in your bedroom. It just ain’t gonna happen, dumpling. Maybe when you’re 16 and can drive a (flying?) car, we’ll talk about it. Until then: “Yes, I am a terrible mommola, and no, it’s not going to happen.”
Slow Clap, Izzy. Can’t wait to meet my future niece/nephew.