Let's talk about cyberbullying. I want to address this topic and educate you on what is going on with technology and bullying. 52% of students report being bullied. Another 52% don't tell their parents that they have been bullied online. With unlimited access to the internet and little supervision, teens and children can do some real damage online. They can easily tarnish some other kid's reputation, expose embarrassing pictures, and use their friends to harass an individual. I have done extensive research but the real learning is when I am in the schools. I sit down with students and we talk. I listen and hear their stories. I have learned more from them then any book or degree.
It broke my heart to watch the Amanda Todd's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxfTyNa24A
As I watched the video, my heart sunk, tears were running down my pudgy cheeks, and I could not wipe away the pain. The pain, I feel when I see yet another life taken away because of bullying. All she needed was one person to believe in her, to listen to her, to tell her it will be ok. I am sure her parents tried to help and understand, but honestly as adults we don't get it. I grew up with no cell phone, no social media, no iPad, chat rooms didn't exist, and all we had was one home phone and 3 siblings fighting over it.
The kids now live in two different worlds: 1) the virtual world and 2) the real world. When one world is being attacked, the other world suffers too. If students are being cyberbullied, they don't necessarily know if it is one person or a group. They feel exposed and humiliated. They feel as the joke is on them. They don't know who to trust. They also fear telling their parents. Children and teens think that by telling their parents, they will loose their own internet privileges and the online harassment might get worst.
I often have parent workshops around cyberbllying and it is always heated session. Parents want it to stop and they might confront the perpetrator's parents and use threats or harassment as means to stop the cyberbullying. This usually ends badly and the parents being attached then become defensive...as you can imagine it turns into a big old mess. Honestly, if I had a parent coming at me screaming and threatning me and my family, I would turn into mama bear and attack. So take my advice and DON'T DO THAT! Absolutely nothing will come out of it, except your child will be embarrassed and probably fearful to come to you if the cyberbullying continues. So then as parents what can we do? What are some resources to help us with cyberbullying?
Here are my top "Must Do's" if you have children and you have access to the internet in your home:
- Google your child's name and see what is out there. Go through your child's Facebook pictures and make sure all of the pictures are PG. Make sure there is no personal information posted on his/her social media (phone number, address, etc...)
- Set rules and boundaries around using the internet. It is a privilege not a right! Come up with some consequences if your child abuses his/her internet privileges.
- Learn about Facebook, Twitter, Tumbrl, Pinterest, You Tube, Gmail, and different websites.
- Find out how to report cyberbullying and ask your school about their policies and training programs around the topic.
- Check privacy settings at least 4 times a year. Make sure that your child has them set so only his/her friends can see your child's profile. You want to avoid any posts being public. This will eliminate exposing your child to possible threats and leaking private information.
- If you find evidence of cyberbullying, print out the evidence and report it. Have your child unfriend the person immediately and hide any harassing news feed on his/her social media page.
- Talk to your child about sexting and the consequences of sending provocative photos. These behaviors can start as early as 5th grade.
- Tell your child to NEVER share passwords with BFF and significant others. Kids can be vicious and turn on each other so easily. Think about my last post on Relational Aggression! Remember kids feel powerful online and they think you can't catch them. They may use innocent peoples accounts to harass and threaten others.
- Set ground rules with cell phones. Have the ability to browse your child's texts and photos. It is not an invasion of privacy. If your child is sending texts, posts, and pictures, anyone can access it, so you have a right too. I also tell parents: "if you are paying for the bill, you can check out your kid's phone." Remember you are doing this to protect your child and keep him/her safe.
- Look when your child last posted on social media sites. If he or she is posting late at night, on a school night, you might want to have a talk about appropriate internet usage and increase boundaries on time of being online.
- Be friends with your child on Facebook and Twitter. You will thank me someday. Browse his/her profile at least once a week.
- Give your child's cell phone a curfew. For example, after 10pm take the phone away for the evening. Have your child get a restful sleep without access to technology.
- Browse through your internet history and visit the sites.
Here is my advice, get educated about what is out there and what your child has access too. Talk about sexting, peer pressure, cyberbullying, retaliation, and revenge. Take the time to get to know what your kid is doing on the internet. Believe me, I know what they do and how they get away with it. It is up to us to start setting ground rules, boundaries, and expectations around technology in your homes.
You don't want to give your child too much privacy or distance and then someday find a video of them unleashing their pain to the world. You can make a difference as a parent and it starts at home.
Here is a great resource for cyberbullying information:
Until next time...