One in five kids was reported to be bullied or socially harassed through text messaging or social networking sites in the past school year. Oftentimes, parents aren’t even aware that it’s happening to their child. Mighty Mommy has 5 ways to empower your child against new-age bullying.
Tip #1: Stay Involved in Their Online World
Kids are much savvier with today’s electronic gadgets and social media sites than parents are – just check out the numerous digital options available to them in my episode with Tech Talker! But as intimidating as it might be to keep up with them digitally, by staying involved in their online world, you could be protecting them from danger and bullying.
Familiarize yourself with the basics such as how to implement parental locks on your home computer as well as checking with your cell-phone carrier about limiting cell phone use during certain hours so it’s not accessible to them 24/7. If your child has his/her own laptop, set rules that it cannot be used after a particular time in the evening so there is no opportunity for late night exchanges. If trust is an issue, collect the laptops at a designated time each evening.
Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Make them understand that once something is posted, it is out of their control and there are consequences to everything they do online. Modern Manners Guy has a great episode on Facebook manners. Check it out together.
Also, learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use. Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency. Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so. Discuss cyberbullying on a regular basis so they will feel comfortable reaching out to you if they or someone they know is being bullied.
Tip #2: Ask Questions if You Suspect Bullying
If you suspect that your child is being cyberbullied, talk to them right away. Let your child know that it's not his or her fault, and that bullying says more about the bully than the victim. For example, at the beginning of this school year, my teenage daughter admitted she was being bullied on Facebook. After some discussion, we realized this was serious so we addressed the matter with her high school guidance department and assistant principal. Our school has a no-tolerance policy for bullying, but most students are afraid to speak up because of fear of retaliation as well as humiliation amongst peers.
The school handled the matter swiftly and with confidentiality. As it turned out, several other students were also the targets of the same bully, and we also learned that the student who was bullying was the victim of abuse in his own home, which is often the case. If I hadn’t probed into what was bothering my daughter, however, I doubt she’d have come to me on her own terms.