When I was childless and observing my friends from the sidelines, I oftentimes found myself critiquing their parenting misadventures.Several years later, I now find myself suited up and co-captain of my family in the game of raising children.
In the ups and downs on this field, I am constantly reminding my kids that we are on the same team. I will admit that there are days when it feels like I am always stuck in defensive mode. If I am not stopping their advancements toward trouble, I am working to keep the cruel world from tackling them down.
My family has conquered several worthy opponents, but lately I feel that the online world is causing some serious personal fouls. While recent headlines about cyberbullying have unearthed a disturbing trend facing our children, this is something about which most parents with children active online are well aware.
These tragic events have forced many parents to take a time out and analyze the issue.
The advent of 24/7 connectivity has taken bullying to a whole new level. Once, bullying used to be a problem on the playground or in the dark corners of a school hallway. Now technology allows a bully constant access to their victim.
The underdog is unable to escape the barrage of comments and mean posts. Oftentimes, other classmates “like” or add comments to increase the misery. This causes the victim to feel the world is against them. The “pile up”mentality wears on a child and soon they feel isolated.
Bullies flourish in the anonymity of technology, like SocialMedia or cell phones, to harass or insult a victim. This might not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that there are over 23 million children between the ages of 8-17 using Facebook or 17 million connected with mobile devices you can see the larger picture.
Evidence is mounting that something needs to be done to contain cyberbullying:
● According to recent bullying statistics, over 55% of all teens who participate in social media have witnessed cyberbullying
● 52% report being victims with 33% of them being threatened online
● 90% of children will not tell their parents or an adult when cyberbullying occurs
● 70% of teens have taken some form of action to hide online activity from parents
● 15% of high school students were electronically bullied in the past year
● 11% of adolescents and teens report that embarrassing or damaging photographs have been taken without the knowledge or consent of the subject
● 1/10th of middle and high school students have been on the receiving end of ‘hate-terms’ hurled against them
● 80% of teens regularly use cell phones which make them a common medium for cyberbullying
● Victims of cyberbullying sometimes can switch sides and become an aggressor. When this occurs, a back-and-forth between the victim and aggressor appears to continue the bullying
Defensive Tactics For Parents
Studies have found “only one out of every six parents of adolescents and teens are even aware of the scope and intensity involved with cyber bullying”. That means that parental involvement has the potential to be areal game changer to stop the onslaught of cyberbullying.
Here are a few defensive strategies parents can utilize:
● Know which social media sites and apps they enjoy using
● Review social media etiquette.
● Know a child’s password and “friend” them on social media. Bullying behaviors might be deterred if Mom is watching.
● Encourage your son or daughter to notify someone if they witness cyberbullying.
● Inform your child not to volunteer personal information online and be careful what images they send.
● Document acts of cyberbullying. This will help families communicate with schools or officials regarding the problem. Save threatening emails, take a quick screenshot, and keep a log of cyberbullying behaviors. It will help build a solid case if further intervention is needed.
● Seek support from the school or community to help children who are involved in bullying. Working as a group will open up communications and draw attention to the negative consequences surrounding cyberbullying.
● Monitor your child’s activity with an app on their smart phones and parental controls for the Internet
Winning The Game
The good news is that with the increased awareness, the public is standing up against cyberbullying. We are beginning to adjust our strategies and are moving in the right direction. When parents, educators, and officials work together as a team; we have the chance to defeat cyberbullying for once and all.
All children deserve a victory as we triumph over cyberbullying.