Teaching kids about cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is on the rise. It can come in many forms; some that you might not have thought about. We adults see the main form all the time. We call it trolling – when people make rude or lewd comments to try to be funny or just plain mean. As adults it is very easy to block people or bark back but for kids it can be troublesome. It is one thing to have a stranger make a comment online but when it comes from peers, it can be devastating.
Peer pressures and the need to fit in at school is a big thing. When comments are made at night about someone, everyone knows by the next day. It has happened with my oldest daughter and it can really make things hard.
But what about the other forms of cyberbullying? Sending out embarrassing pictures of someone or making the ever-popular memes: these can be just as hurtful and stuck online forever. Even something like a picture of drinking can haunt someone later in life trying to get a job.
Another form is sending text messages out. Say someone writes what they think is a private message only to find out it was shared. Now everyone knows what is going on and the ridicule begins. This one was the biggest teaching point for me as most people don’t realize this.
Stats On Cyberbullying
Before I get into the teachings I do with my kids, I will share some stats. (These all come from stopabully.ca. Check out their site for more stats plus a ton of great resources.)
- 64 per cent of kids have been bullied in some form and the same amount think it’s a normal part of school.
- One in five kids have witnessed online bullying.
- 51 per cent of all teens have had a negative experience with social media.
- 16 per cent have had an embarrassing photo posted of them.
- 90 per cent of parents know about cyberbullying but only 73 per cent are concerned.
These are just a few of the stats. Quite alarming, if you ask me. Such a very important topic that parents need to teach their children and put a stop to this. The RCMP here in Canada also have some great information on bullying. Their site also has some great links for kids to get help if it is happening to them.
Most kids feel that the popular people in school are doing the bullying. Using harassment to move up in the peer world still goes on but, unlike when I was young, it doesn’t end when the bell rings.
Teaching About Cyberbullying
How do you teach cyberbullying to kids who know everything!
For me it starts even before the allowing of cell phones. Kind of a tie-in following normal bullying talks. The issue of bullying never stops being talked about in my home.
The best way to start the conversation is bringing it up when kids start using technology. After that, monitor their use and talk when you see something wrong. Keep listening to your kids when they talk about their day. Never stop the conversation and if problems arise ask how you can help. Tell your kids you will step in if they want or if you see big problems that you will intervene.
I started social media myself around the time my oldest daughter did. It was a way for me, as a parent, to learn about it so I could teach her safe ways to share and interact with people. I showed her sites to avoid, how to block people and what to do if someone just won’t leave her alone. I also told her not to engage with people in a negative manner.
If you have a problem with someone, don’t blast them online as words can never be taken back.
Most teens feel untouchable online. To prove this point to my daughter I screenshot a Twitter post she wrote about me. She was angry and vented online saying something like: I wish my dad would just fuck off and not be involved. I saw it was liked and retweeted quite a bit and so I told her to remove it. After an argument where I was told she was just venting so it’s OK, I put the screen shot out there and tagged her in it. What a wake-up call! She saw how fast I saved her message and spread it around even though she deleted it about 20 minutes after going live.
I also told her to watch what pictures she puts up so people don’t grab them and modify them in any way. I wasn’t saying “don’t post”; more like, be aware. I showed here memes to which she laughed, but then asked: do you think that person knows about it and is OK? Quite the eye-opener for her as, like most people, she hadn’t really thought about it.
Now, the hardest part for any teen is sharing what people say. Just like adults even now with the whole “did-you-hear-what-so-and-so-did?” I told her not to get too wrapped up in drama and to watch what she said about people, even to friends. The phone game is strong in high school and word travels faster now.
Taking a screen shot of a conversation and then sharing it with someone else is cyberbullying. I was told it’s no big deal, until it happened to her. One of her friends had sent out a text of her saying something. Eventually another friend sent it back to her saying “look what’s going around”. She realized not to get involved with that garbage and to call people out on it.
Never text out or post online anything negative without thinking first.
Will this hurt them?
Could this be taken out of context?
Will this change people’s views of that person?
Most importantly: How would I feel if this was said about me?
My eldest daughter, like all my kids, have dealt with her fair share of bullies. Cyberbullying has hit our home, but because we have open communication, the effects are minimal. I take a huge role in teaching to be a part of the solution and not the problem. I trust my daughter with her online presence and would not want it any other way for my kids.
Jeff Wood is a father of three and parenting blogger from Edmonton, Canada. This post was previously published on Drooling Daddy, and has been republished with permission.