Charlene Doak-Gebauer On Raising Children With Healthy Social Media & Digital Media Habits
An Interview With Maria Angelova
Raise a child with a sense of humanity and compassion. Too often peers are the predators online, daring children to do things, bullying with social media gangs and the like. Parents raising a child with a sense of humanity and compassion will help them communicate positively and perhaps detect a bullying situation that they can share with trusted adults.
Young people today are growing up in an era where screen time is a given from a very young age. Unfortunately, studies show that large amounts of screen time can be damaging, and social media can be even worse. Our children are facing enormous challenges before their brains and bodies have had a chance to develop fully. Social media can potentially keep kids from developing social cues and lead to increased mental health challenges, bullying, and much more. So what can parents do to create healthier habits around social media? How can kids be taught to use social media in a healthy way that causes as little damage as possible? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, and mental health professionals, about Raising Children With Healthy Social Media and Digital Media Habits. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Charlene Doak Gebauer.
Regularly featured on radio and TV, Charlene Doak-Gebauer is a globally renowned expert on all aspects of digital child and family protection in the modern world. She’s the award-winning Producer/Director of the documentary “Vulnerable Innocence,” the Founder and Chair of the federal Canadian charity “Internet Sense First”; and of the AICET Council (International Anti Internet Child Exploitation Team). Her Theory of Digital Supervision for proactive online child protection is an important standard. In high demand as a keynote speaker, she has taken the stage in the United States, Iceland, Europe, Nigeria, Australia, and India, and is often called on by organizations like Crime Stoppers, schools, teacher conferences, police organizations and other corporate conferences around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
There have been some tragic situations in my family that brought me to researching, writing, and speaking about online child protection. My family member, at the age of 4, was abused and used for child pornography by neighbors. It was horrendous for my whole family. That same family member was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 22. My family has never been the same. At the age of 15, I was sexually assaulted by a teacher on a field trip. I have never been the same. I decided I needed to do something to help my family. As a computer science specialist in education, I thought maybe my expertise could be put to good use. After researching the crime of child pornography (child sexual exploitation), I realized the proliferation was most disturbing. I then embarked on starting my charity, creating educational presentations, writing two books, becoming a global speaker and producing/directing a documentary.
Can you share the most interesting story that has happened since you started your career?
I was a secondary school teacher and was a victim of a road rage car accident. I was left with brain injury that affected my computation of numbers. A person that witnessed the accident handed me his business card, said he had pictures, and asked if I would like to keep in touch. I said yes. I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and encouraged to launch a lawsuit, which I did. When I contacted the fellow about his pictures, he actually had a video of him interviewing the other driver wherein the driver had said he was at fault, following too close, and not paying attention. My lawyer said it was the first and probably the last time he would ever have such conclusive evidence! The case was settled out of court. Had it not been for the accident, my brain injury resulting in my having to leave teaching, I would never be on the child protection journey I am now, speaking globally, having written two books, and produced a documentary.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am the Global Chair for the G100 group, head office in India. We are completing a submission to the United Nations regarding childcare, protection, and parenting. In this digital age, we have to digitize our skills, particularly parenting. The report is comprehensive, with many countries providing input. It will be submitted October 12th.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There have been several. Cannot share one that would resonate more than the other.
Fantastic. Let’s now turn to the main part of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about why you are an authority on how to help children develop healthy social media habits?
I am a specialist in Computer Science in Education and a trained network administrator. After working with secondary students, meeting with parents, and working with colleagues, I realized the profound vulnerabilities of children online. Through an experience in my family, and my own, I began researching the crime of predation online. This began nine years ago. I research the crime regularly and speak about my Theories of Digital Supervision and Digital Sex Trafficking regularly. Through research, writing, my own education, and speaking globally, my work has expanded to the point I am referred to as an expert in online child protection.
From your experience or research, can you help articulate some of the downsides of children having access to social media? Is there an amount of time, or certain content, that is just too much?
There are too many downsides to children having social media. Predation is on every platform, every gaming system, every social media apps — it is everywhere. There are coercions online toward children from performing sex acts on camera, to bestiality, to bullying, to social media gangs. Amount of time? It takes less than 30 minutes for a child to be coerced into doing different acts. Parents/guardians need to be supervising at the device level and limiting online time.
Is there a positive side too? Can children gain and grow from social media?
Positive side — particularly for lonely children. They are able to communicate and have a dialogue online that fills a gap. Their reading and writing skills are enhanced because of it with auto spell check and the like. They may be able to obtain employment via networking online. It also helps to develop memory skills through chats and gaming with friends.
Social media is an accepted part of life today. We know that along with all of the good comes a lot of challenges. From your experience or research, what five steps can we take to raise children with healthy social media and digital media habits?
- Raise a child with a sense of humanity and compassion. Too often peers are the predators online, daring children to do things, bullying with social media gangs and the like. Parents raising a child with a sense of humanity and compassion will help them communicate positively and perhaps detect a bullying situation that they can share with trusted adults.
- Raise a child to realize their passwords on digital devices need to be shared with parents. A child that realizes parents are overseeing their activities will feel protected. Spying on children? No. It has to be instilled with children that for their own protection, they need to be open with great transparency about their online activities.
- It is important that children realize that their activities online are the responsibility of their parents and them. Parents are responsible for the data on digital devices. Sharing of nudes if under the age of 18 can cause charges of possession of child sexual abuse material on the part of the parent. Example — Johnny takes a picture of his genitalia. Emails to Bobby down the street. Bobby’s parents find the picture. The police interview Johnny’s parents. Johnny is interviewed separately and tells the police his parents took the picture. This becomes a whole new conversation with the police that parents need to avoid. Education regarding nudes and content to children is very important.
- The minute a child is being bullied in social media, parents of all children need to be notified to stop the harassing behaviors. I have experienced this in classrooms. It is a huge problem in schools today. The only way to stop it is to have all children involved in dialogue about it and have consequences.
- Too often children have their cameras on during chats and gaming. Unfortunately, many predators are online on all platforms looking for pictures/videos to use in their child sexual abuse material (child pornography) business. With AI, these pics are being deep faked into videos. Children have to be careful to have cameras disabled when in various environments unless they need them for a certain purpose.
How do you effectively respond to the constant refrain of “but all my friends do this!”?
Then all of your friends are making poor choices online. The legal ramifications must be outlined to children for them to realize the magnitude of their behaviors. Unfortunately, too many children are operating freely online without any supervision and getting off with whatever they want to do because parents/guardians are not educated in the issues, and not supervising at the device level.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a parent or educator who would like to learn more about this?
My two books or my documentary “Vulnerable Innocence”. My newest release is “The Internet — Are Children In Charge?”. The answer to that question is “yes”.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Benjamin Franklin — “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” This is so true in the case of the victimization of children. Too many people think it will not happen to them. However, children are being victimized online too often, and parents rarely know. For example, there are five, six, seven years old’s addicted to porn and their parents to do not know because they are not watching their children.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I am already involved in a movement — online child protection globally. It is beginning to have quite a following. My Theories are unique, user friendly, and inexpensive to implement. Parents/guardians just must apply my theories. I have presented in parallel to the United Nations and have submitted a report to the United Nations about child protection.
What is the best way our readers can continue to follow your work online?
Be mindful of my websites that I update regularly:
Or, Read my books and view my documentary.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a free consultation, click here.