Cyberbullying: Uniting Parents and Teens
Cyberbullying is a concern for all parents and teens alike. We can’t be with our children 24/7 and the fact is our kids spend more time in cyberspace than they do with us. The most common form of cyberbullying among tweens and teens happens with cell phones. We need to equip them with the knowledge to handle cyberbullies and prevent them from becoming victims.
McAfee’s study of Teens and Screens in 2014 said that cyberbullying had tripled. 24% of tweens and teens lack knowledge on what to do in the event they witness online abuse or are a victim of it.
Cyberbullying Research Center is sending out daily Tweets during the month of October, Bullying Prevention Month under the hashtag #CRCdata, with statistics on their latest research of teens and social media.
According to a National Crime Prevention Council survey, almost 80% of teens said they didn’t have parental rules about their internet usage or found ways around them. Only 11% of teens talked to their parents about incidents of online abuse. By having open and frequent face-to-face chats with your child about digital literacy, internet safety and their cyber-life offline, they are more likely to come to you when they are having issues online.
First we need to understand why tweens and teens don’t tell their parents.
1) Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.
2) Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak. If the incident gets reported to their school, will they be able to face their classmates/peers? Imagine the horror of a child hearing from peers after being bullied that they somehow deserved it, brought it on themselves or should have just toughened it out rather than be a snitch.
3) Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your child may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your child. Of course the child’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.
Building a strong digital relationship with your child:
1) Speak openly about cyberbullying: Communication is key to helping your child understand that you are their advocate not only offline, but online too. Talk to them about cyberbullying prevention and remind them of the basics such as:
- Never engage with online bullies
- Never give out passwords
- Never try to seek revenge on a cyberbully
- How to block bullies
- Save evidence of cyber-bullying, especially if you have to report the bully to a school
2) It is not their fault: Being a victim of a cyberbully is not their fault. Remind them you are not going to judge them or blame them. Assure them that you will not revoke their Internet privileges or take away their phone if they are cyberbullied. As I mentioned earlier, the Internet is an important part of their life so if they feel threatened that it will be removed, they may believe it is easier to be bullied and emotionally tormented. We don’t want them to be feel this way, it is not healthy for anyone to have to tolerate.
3) Listen: Communication is also a two-way street. Be sure you hear what your child is saying. Many victims say what helps most is to be heard — really listened to, either by a friend or an adult who cares. Hopefully that is their parent. Cyberbullying may not be physical, however the emotion scars can be deep. Listening to your child respectfully can start the healing process. Never diminish their feelings and let them know you are their advocate.
4) Role-play: It’s so disturbing when parents wait until we have a tragic headline to sit down and have that tech talk, or ask their teenager to show them that app that’s being featured on the news…. Don’t knock yourself that you may never be as tech savvy as your child, take advantage of it. Ask them to teach you about what they know. In doing this, you can learn more about their online life. Get in the trenches with them – you can learn a lot!