Cyberbullying is a hot topic right now. I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to gather some information about how to communicate and protect our kids from it. I am delighted to introduce Amy Williams a parent of two teens and a former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health.
Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that, unfortunately, cyberbullying has become nearly impossible to escape for many teens. What makes this a significantly different problem from regular bullying is that cyberbullying follows teens wherever they take their laptops or smartphones. However, as with many problems, staying informed is one of the best ways to start taking action against it.
Two Big Factors
- Boys especially like hiding the things they’re doing online. However, in most cases, they don’t actually need to hide their activities. Nobody really likes being snooped on, but the teenage obsession with hiding things feels a lot like paranoia.
- Bullying is much more common online than it may seem. Kids generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to seeing stuff they don’t like.
- “Empowered” kids, who have already figured out how to manipulate the technology they’re using and configure it to block messages from people they don’t like. A few have even gone as far as reporting bullies (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to do much on most social media sites), but their response to bullying is more-or-less laughing at it.
- The other group of kids tend to stress out about the messages they see – they’re still vulnerable to hurtful messages, and oftentimes have trouble learning how to laugh off online threats and insults.
Now, the really weird part is how influenced these behaviors are by how the kids view technology. I’m not sure how true this is for everyone, but kids who like technology more seem to be less fazed by cyberbullying than kids who see technology as a problem – and yes, those types of kids exist too.
A good first step to take in preventing cyberbullying is figuring out what type of responses your kids are having if you really want to help them get past it. Here are a few good options for parents:
- Monitoring Apps. This is totally snooping, but let’s face it, we snoop on their activities anyway until they show they’re mature enough to be independent or creative enough to get around us. If we’re going to keep tabs on them, then we might as well be doing it right.
- Family Discussions. Sometimes all you need to do is ask your child what they’d do if they saw a message they didn’t like – and it’s even better if you ask them to show you what they’d do. If they do well, give the little guy (or girl) some praise – hugs are a great choice.
- Watching Them. If your kid suddenly puts their phone down, looking rather upset, then there’s a pretty good chance they were just bullied somehow. Either that or someone spread a video you’ll wish you could watch out of your mind. Talk about it, but don’t intrude too far.
What do you think? Is there anything special you’re doing to help your children deal with cyberbullying? See the infographic below for more information.
Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.
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Child Life Specialists Working with Adolescents