Parents in denial

Whether the issue is sex, drugs, bullying, risky online behavior or texting and driving, parents consistently underestimate their own child’s use or participation in these behaviors.

As a Clinical Social Worker, I am often on the front line when it comes to challenging parental denial. While no parent wants to hear that their child is headed for trouble, turning a blind eye is simply not a parenting strategy.

The “Not My Kid” syndrome is alive and well but this kind of denial based thinking closes the door to potential parenting opportunities.

Every parent wants to believe that their child is making good choices, but even the smartest kids make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life, and believe it or not, your child is going to make some.

Parents need to pay attention to what their children are doing online in order to ensure safe, appropriate and responsible behavior. Parenting in cyberspace should mirror parenting in the real world. Social Judo is the smartest parenting tool on the market.

Education about the potential dangers that exist online and reading the countless media stories of the tragic consequences of unsupervised social media use don’t seem to be challenging this parental denial.

Perhaps the stories themselves are so disturbing that they, inadvertently, are reinforcing the “it won’t happen to my child” thinking. Maybe parents are too afraid to actually consider the consequences for their own children.

PARENTS, UNFORTUNATELY, THESE THINGS HAPPEN. Here are just a few of the recent stories to hit the news:

  • Three students at a high school in Newtown, Conn., were charged last month with selling sexually explicit pictures and videos of their classmates, and 20 others reportedly shared those images with friends. School administrators learned that students were sharing nude photos and videos of themselves and their classmates through Snapchat, FaceTime, iMessage and Kik.
  • January 2016: Two Virginia Tech freshmen charged with the premeditated kidnapping and killing of a 13-year-old girl who, authorities say, communicated with her murderer online. Neighbors said that the day before she was murdered she showed them kik messages between she and the 18-year-old man she was planning to meet that evening.
  • A 35-year-old Alabama man was charged with statutory rape and the attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl he contacted on the messenger app Kik.
  • A Colorado man was charged with taking a 13-year-old Connecticut girl to a hotel and sexually assaulting her, after chatting and arranging the meeting on Kik.

Stats and Facts:

  • The National Cyber Alliance found that only 13% of teenagers thought their parents knew the extent of their internet use.
  • 804 teens and 810 parents surveyed found that 60% of teens had social media accounts without their parent’s knowledge. Only 28% of parents thought their child had accounts that they did not know of.

The gap between what teens are doing and what their parents know about is indicative of what the NCSA is calling a “digital disconnect between American teens and parents.” This disconnect is also evident regarding rules parents say they have set around online activities.

  • 67% of parents said their children were required to report online incidents that made them scared or uncomfortable, but only 32% of teens reported that their parents had even imposed such a rule.
  • In a recent study of 1500 families, not one parent believed their child could be a cyberbully.
  • Only 16% of parents think that their child has shared information that they would not normally share in public. The fact is, almost 30% have shared personal information online.

Teenagers are engaging in risky behavior online:

  • 39% have posted something they later regretted
  • 37% who have used the sites to make fun of other students
  • 25% have created a profile with a false identity
  • 24% have hacked into someone else’s social networking account
  • 13% have posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves or others online

Yes, kids will be kids, and yes, it is time to step out of denial and into smarter parenting.

1500 parents surveyed were asked if they believe their child could be a cyberbully.


“Digital disconnect” is one way to put it, but I call it old school “Not My Kid” syndrome.

The consequences are too huge to keep your head in the sand. Parent smarter, your kids deserve it.