It is scary that bullying has become so much more difficult to find and control.
When I was a child and you heard the term bully you tended to think about the boy on the playground who pushed other kids or pulled the ponytails of the girls. Today, bullying is ever present in technology and the implications of cyber bullying are vast. A mean word or an embarrassing picture can be spread faster and broader than we ever imagined. We read of terrible stories of girls posting locker pictures of another girl to humiliate her, or boys dominating another boy and posting the pictures and videos for the world to see. This level and depth of humiliation and mental torture is beyond what most of us ever had to deal with growing up. This means we have to be even more vigilant in protecting our kids and also making sure our kids are not the ones doing these things. Talk to your kids / students about cyber bullying.
- Do not respond/engage to the abuse. No back and forth. You can never win in a back and forth online argument!
- Talk to someone about it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Ignoring bullying only leads to its escalation.
- Keep records/print off messages if possible, to help identify the bully.
- If necessary get a new number, account, give it out one person at a time and keep a diary daily to record any abuse, your tormenter may be closer than you think.
- Take a break – unplug.
- Amend anti-bullying policies to include text messaging, cell phone use, and online bullying.
- Make a commitment to educate teachers, students, and parents about cyber bullying.
- Make sure parents know whom to contact at the school if there is a problem.
- Never allow a known incident of bullying to pass unchallenged and not dealt with.
- Make this topic easy to discuss. Proactively ask your kids if they are having problems. Look at their accounts. Forget worrying about intruding, parent them!
- Place and keep the computer in an open, common space. Look at their phones and tablets for warning signs.
- Inform Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone service provider of abuse.
- Do not erase messages; keep for evidence.
- Software help – McAfee Parental Controls filter both IM and Chat Rooms. Tracker programs. Be vigilant if you suspect cyber bullying and fight technology with technology.
General Guidelines for talking with your child about Cyber Bullies
Parenting a child who is being bullied is very difficult. Every fiber within you wants to step in and be the protector, confront the bully, yell at the teacher, and even scream at the parents of the bully. You want to protect your child. But as a parent you have to know and understand that this is part of growing up, and your child needs to learn. They need your protection but not as an avenger. They need your protection as a nurturer. Parents, if your child is being bullied please do the following:
Listen to your child.
When their self-confidence is being diminished at school you have to build it back up at home. Tell your child that he or she has done the right thing by coming to you. Advise them to report ALL bullying.
Parents and teachers must help them see, believe, and understand that they are worth hearing. Tell your child that he/she has done the right thing by talking about what has happened. Ask your child’s teacher to help your child talk about what is happening. Don’t leave it to chance. Collaborate with school personnel to address the problem. Talk to the principal, teacher, counselor, or anyone else you need to in order to make sure the problem stops.
Sadly, it is also important for parents and the student to keep written records.
Preserve any evidence of aggression. It can help protect your child in case a bully is denying their behavior to protect themselves.
In some cases, it can help to role-play assertive behavior with your child. Help your child stand up to a bully in a safe yet assertive manner.
Across the board, it is important to speak very clearly and plainly with your child about what is going on.
Give them simple, straightforward advice about where to go and who to reach out to at school or anywhere that they feel threatened or are in danger. Assure your child that there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help.
Finally, MAKE YOUR CHILD FEEL SPECIAL!
When a child is bullied it isn’t the physical results that last, it is the mental. When a child feels like he has been humiliated or made to feel less than others then the mental and emotional impact is much more damaging and long-lasting. Your kids have to have your help. You have to rebuild their self esteem and this doesn’t happen by accident. Do these things to rebuild your child’s emotional security:
- Tell them you love them.
- Hug them.
- Sit and talk to them. Show real interest in them.
- Set them up to succeed. Find something they can do and praise them for it!
- Step in and help. Let them see you as being there for them.
- Make sure they know that home is safe. Home is shelter. Home is absolute.
- MAKE YOUR CHILD FEEL SPECIAL!
It is a brave new world. Our conveniences and comforts that are afforded through technology are one of our great achievements. However, these technologies can also harbor a dark side. Cyber bullying, online gambling, pornography, sexting, and the list goes on. These are real issues your children and your students face today that many of us did not even dream about when we were kids. You have to get involved with your kid’s and your student’s online lives and when you see the tell-tale signs of cyber bullying or any other cyber issue step in.
Bullying, even online bullying, can completely change the way a child views him or herself.
Don’t let your favorite piece of technology become your student’s nightmare.