Go ahead, add another bullet to my list of fears about raising children in today’s day and age. That bullet point being cyberbullying. The consistent stories of cyberbullying resulting depression and even suicide sicken me. Such stories often leave me wondering what Elizabeth and Joshua will experience as they grow up. Obviously, I hope they are never a victim of it. But I can’t always prevent that. However, I can take action to make sure they are not the bully, but that’s certainly the hard part.
Currently, statistics regarding bullying are astounding. According to nobullying.com, 52 percent of young people report being cyber bullied and 95 percent of teens that witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior. Further, 50 percent of young people surveyed said they never confide in their parents when the cyber bullying occurs. If children aren’t turning to their parents, who are they turning to? Unfortunately, a lot of the kids aren’t coping well which is why we see the harrowing news stories.
As parents, we have to ensure digital transparency to monitor what our kids are up to online. This allows us to understand how their online interactions might be affecting them. Further, how can we make sure that our kids aren’t the ones doing the bullying? I suggest setting up some social media/application ground rules. These rules may seem somewhat harsh, but with a cell phone comes a lot of responsibility (and my guess is you, the parents, are paying the bill)!
The phone sleeps at night so you can too. The phone should never stay in your child’s room. When the phone is in the room, it’s too tempting for your child to stay up and fall into the black hole of social media.
All social media apps require parental approval prior to download. This is a great way to know how your kids are spending their time online and how to monitor those digital tendencies. Link the App Store up to your iTunes so they need your password before they can successfully download.
Parents get all passwords to the phone, apps and email. Sure, they’ll deem it an invasion of privacy, but they’re kids and kids need supervision, even online. Kids are also less likely to act out on social media if they know their parents can see what they’re doing.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This is a great rule that should definitely translate to cyberspace. One theory of why cyberbullying is so prominent is because it is easier to say something mean to someone without having to look them in the face. Make sure your kids don’t succumb to the temptation by constantly reminding them of this.
Use your brain BEFORE posting. That means before texting or snapping or Instagramming or whatever. Ask your child how they would feel if their parents or even grandparents read the post. Would they be embarrassed? If so, don’t post. Remind them that texting and photos are permanent when sent to another person. This goes for snaps and Instastories that “disappear” after a certain period of time. All it takes is a quick screenshot of what you sent to someone in confidence for it to be blasted all over..
While we have ways to go to really teach our kids how to treat people in this increasingly digital world, the most important thing is teaching them that different is okay. In fact, different is great and we need to learn to embrace it. This applies to everyone, even me as a mom of toddlers. Raising them to be sweet, considerate and stand up for those who are bullied because they are different starts NOW, on the playground, before they ever think to ask for their own phone.
For all of you millennial moms out there, I was watching Mean Girls and Cady says, “And that's when I realized, making fun of Caroline Krafft wouldn't stop her from beating me in this contest. Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George's life definitely didn't make me any happier.” If that isn’t a perfect lesson to learn about bullying, I don’t know what is. Teach your kids these principles, set some ground rules and you’ll be doing your part to eliminate cyberbullying.
Now excuse me while I go watch Mean Girls again….