I am scheduled as many of you know, to speak at my Alma Mater, on Friday. I am thrilled for the opportunity because I care deeply about issues related to the pain and suffering screens and social media are causing for every last one of us. But especially, for our vulnerable children.
Yesterday, on my private account, -I posted a meme with the F bomb. I actually grabbed it from one of my favorite accounts that often makes me giggle. (That is a a pre-requisite to accounts that I allow myself to follow. ) To boot, The F word is my Mamma’s least favorite word and she is appalled that all efforts to raise polished southern women, seem to fly out the window when we (my sisters and me) use it. It’s become a silly means of teasing her. – So, I was sitting in the waiting room of family court, distracting myself as I waited to testify. I giggled at the meme, and related to it, as I reflected on the current state of national affairs and the unfathomable reality that is lived by the children who enter my office on a daily basis. —
My account is private. I have the security measures set. On principle, I do not allow children or minors to follow me. Because, often times I address topics and say words intended for adults who share my sense of humor and get me. Also, my old teenage self loves to get a rise out of my Mamma. I am reminded today, as I remind the children I speak to- that humans are easily offended, words have power, and that we judge people on only a fraction of their story. If you choose to post on social media, even in context of who you believe to be “safe people”–you are never fully safe online. Figuratively and literally.
I received a phone call that parents had concerns about allowing me to talk to their children about responsible social media use because I had used the “F” word on my private instagram account. The implication was that , “perhaps I had been hacked.” And ya’ll, you know what? I bold faced lied. In a panicked moment (with my children arguing over after-school snacks in the back of my van, and one with a fever)- and with a flash of 1000 images and fears of failing and disappointing my community , the school that raised me-I agreed I had been hacked. Remorse came quickly. Less so about the morality of my lie, (that would come later), and more so that I did not do the very thing I so passionately defend and advocate; to be a truth teller. My truth is this: I am feisty 5’3″ Mamma to 3 girls and wife to my gentle and humble husband. I passionately defend children and advocate for them. I spend many hours in court and with judges and DHR and attorneys communicating the realities of sexual abuse in our community. And alongside of that is my fierce passion to educate adults, parents and children to know the horrific facts and risks of predators, and online sexual perversion, and how screens are hi jacking brain development and life competency skills and then to empower them to navigate the digital world safely, for good, for humor, for community and true friendship. I also use the “F” word on occasion for mostly cathartic and humorous purposes.
The rest of my truth is that I love people, I love my friends, my family and my Lord. I am fully me before Him and I believe He holds me close –and grieves with me as I wrestle with the pain in this world and question what in the actual world is going on. I hope for everyone, literally everyone–children especially–that when they are my age, (hopefully sooner) they will find themselves acting wisely and in sync with their developmental age, knowing their truth and finding the best and most life giving way to communicate it.
Leigh Hurley MA, LPC has been practicing for over 10 years. She is a crusader for protecting children and advocates living an authentic life.