is an author as well as a parent and family advocate. Her expertise is educating parents who are struggling with a troubled teen and Internet safety for both kids and parents. Sue is the founder of P.U.R.E
., or Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc., an advocacy organization to educate parents about the schooling program options available to pre-teens and teenagers experiencing behavioral problems.
In her book, Wit's End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen
, Sue chronicles her own difficulties with her teen, as well as offering prescriptive advice for parents who may also be at their wit's end.
After being victimized online and cyberstalked due to her advocacy work, Sue won a landmark case for Internet defamation and invasion of privacy, and since then, her name and voice have become synonymous with helping others that are being cyber attacked. She tells the tale in her book, Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That Changed the Way We Use the Internet
These days Sue is a passionate cyber advocate, educating kids and adults about best practices online, as well as a regular blogger on Huffington Post
. She is also a contributor to a wide variety of parenting and Internet safety publications and websites. Sue has been featured, interviewed, and quoted on ABC News, 20/20, Dr. Phil, the BBC, CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric, CNN Headline News, and many others.
Here are some highlights of my conversation with Sue:
On how P.U.R.E. helps families qualify residential treatment centers
We have helped thousands in the past 15 years, thousands and thousands of families that don't know anything about the teen help industry. We give them helpful hints . . . questions to ask programs, and I always tell parents there are more good programs out there than there are not so good programs.
Question the schools, the facilities. Things that they [interested parents] didn't even think about. You can call the local sheriff's office and say, “Hey, how many times are you called out to the facility? Do they have frequent runaways?” Call the parent references. Of course they’re going to give you good parent references, but say, “Hey, it sounds like you had a great experience there. If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?” You’re going to get a little bit of the negative. These are things that parents don't even think about.
On how offline chats about cyberspace can keep your child safer online
Offline chats will help keep your child safer online. And the fact is you're never, ever going to keep up with what your child knows. I advise parents every day, it’s just like asking them, "Do you have homework?” or “How was your day at school?” Have those cyber talks too, and ask your child, "Did you learn any new apps today? Let me show you what I learned. Show me what you learned."
It’s the same thing.
On how digital citizenship is as important as potty training
It's not even your content; it's how you're behaving online. What I'm saying to you is from the moment your child is given a keypad, you should be teaching your child online behavior offline. The kindness and the empathy starts offline, and it should be driven online. In other words, how they act offline is how they should be acting online. It's the same thing. It's no longer about thinking before you post; it's about pausing before you post. I say this all the time to parents. Your online persona should be a reflection of your offline, of who you are. They shouldn't be two separate people. They should be the same person, and with that, it should start before they're even given the keypad. That's what I mean as important as potty training.
On how people of all ages can be a cyber mentor
Peer-to-peer mentoring is great because sometimes with peer-to-peer mentoring, kids can relate better to their peers than they can to their parent, but another one I really love is if a grandparent mentors, because sometimes a grandparent can mentor you as far as senior mentoring. . . . A child can mentor the grandparent on technology, whereas the grandparent can mentor their grandchild a little bit on wisdom, the social wisdom on offline things.
On how mentors can help stop cyberbullying
Well, the other thing is, is when you have a parent or grandparent that's helping you mentor, one of the biggest things a parent or grandparent, or even a peer, a peer can help you, or older sibling, you have to teach them that when they’re in doubt, or especially when they're being bullied online or harassed online, when in doubt, it's time to click out
. Don't be afraid to click out, and only a mentor can give you the strength to do that. Usually it's an older person.
On why cyberbullying is so damaging, and how to fight it
The fact is, cyberbullying is 24/7, 365 days a year, and this is why it's so damaging, and it magnifies them 1000%. It's not like they're being bullied offline and being bullied in the hallway, and it goes away, and you forget about it three or four days later, three or four weeks later. There is no rewind when it's online.
It doesn't go away. And what happens is it gets to be published and then another person talks about it, and another person, and another person. Then what happens is, I think of it more like if you remember the telephone game.
One person will whisper it or share it with another, and then it gets worse, and it gets worse, and it gets worse. Before you know it, that one little post about this girl having thunder thighs has ended up being a complete thunder rage. . . . And the tips are, you don't engage! These kids have to learn to tell an adult
. This is where the mentors can really come in.
On the number-one reason kids don’t tell their parents about cyberbullying
My biggest tip really is, when you tell an adult, and what parents need to understand when they're talking to their kids is that—and this can happen in your daily or regular cyber chats—the child needs to know, and this is the number-one reason why kids don't tell adults, is their fear of losing their lifeline, fear of losing the Internet. The parent needs to understand and to tell their child you're not going to lose the Internet; you need to tell us if you're being harassed online.