According to a survey from Pew Research, nearly half of U.S. teens say they have been bullied or harassed online.
Did you know that simply spending a meal with your teenager once a day, listening and talking (without devices) can help build a foundation for a strong relationship that provides support so your teen feels comfortable to come to you with a problem?
Whether they are being pressured by peers to try drugs or harassed in school, and more commonly now, being bullied online, coerced to send sexual images—or engaging with less-than-ethical people in their virtual world, these short talks can not only help them build trust but also give them a level of ease in speaking with you.
Over the years, if not the past decade, we have witnessed how online hate has destroyed lives. From young people dying by suicide after being humiliated online or cruel comments that leave adolescents in despair feeling hopeless and alone, cyberbullying can ruin lives. Research suggests that youths who experience cyberbullying are at higher risk for suicide and suicidal ideation.
The PEW Research Center shared that nearly half of teens have experienced some sort of cyberbullying. Being called offensive names was the most common form of harassment; spreading false rumors about them followed closely behind in second place.
When a teenager or any young person is dealing with digital hate, it can be overwhelming and emotionally stressful. They tend to revisit the comments or harmful post, and it will continue to fester and deflate their mental well-being and self-worth. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and even poor academic performance.
Having an open line of communication with your teen is crucial, especially when they are dealing with cyberbullying. The majority of teens live most of their lives in the digital world—chances (unfortunately) are high that they will stumble on some form of cyberbullying.
Steps to Shorts Chats with Teens
Short chats can build strong relationships; let’s face it, it is not easy to have long conversations with a teenager these days—so let’s make the most with what we can get.
With short chats, you can have small doses of how you can better protect your teens from what they are facing; they do not feel as if they are boxed into a big lecture where a teen can tune you out. Now you can give them snippets of advice they are more likely to remember. Never doubt, you are their greatest influence.
Communication is key. Offline parenting will help online safety. Never stop talking about your teen’s daily digital life. It is just as important as how their day was at school. Research shares that 46 percent of teens are online almost constantly; let’s hope yours is not one of them, but this leaves them at risk for exposure to cyberbullying, predators, and scams.
Frequently ask about new apps—if you are not aware of it, ask your teen to teach it to you. Always ask about new virtual friends. It’s important to be interested in their digital lives—this is now their new playground.
Help is always a call/text away. Be sure your teen knows you are available to them no matter what. They should never have to fear you will judge them, especially if they are in a situation that they know you would not approve of. Their safety is your priority—always.
Does your teen feel unsafe with a conversation online or uncomfortable? In your short chats, let them know they can come to you with anything—without judgment.
Make action plans. Talk to your teen about action plans for different and/or difficult situations. If they are being harassed at school, bullied online, or asked to send sexual images (or maybe they already have)—making these conversations as short or long as they feel comfortable and, in each chat, giving them more valuable information is building their trust in you. You are your teen’s advocate, and they will eventually not only know this—but also feel it.
Treat others as you want to be treated. It is coming back to that old cliché. It is the most important rule online and offline. Always treat people with kindness. It is a priority. With kindness comes respect—and, as we know, this is a two-way street. In our short talks, both parent and teen should respect each other’s opinions (even if you do not like what you hear) and discuss your reasons without arguments.
The online world is messy. No matter what age your child is, it is hard to protect them from some of the ugliness that lingers on social media. We must constantly remind them—just because it is out there, it doesn’t mean we have to be part of it.
Our teens may always be an app ahead of us, but they will always need our parenting wisdom. Never stop having your short chats.