Adolescence can be such an exciting time when you are gaining your independence and starting to make big choices about your future. However, it’s during this time that teens will go through more changes than at any other time of their lives. Friendships will come and go; bodies are rapidly changing, and they are trying to make sense of their place in the world.
It’s important for parents to remind themselves their children are trying to navigate the many technological, global and social changes with much of the vulnerability of a child, but with the world expecting them to behave like adults.
Opening a Door
In the digital age we live in, the face of bullying looks entirely different than it did 10 or 20 years ago. For one, the size or audience that is able to access the hateful material is much greater and compounds the victim’s humiliation. The speed at which negative information can spread is also much faster than in the past. When insults, comments or images are shared digitally, they can be preserved by the person who is being bullied and viewed over and over again. The harmful effects of this is that the pain is re-inflicted every time they see it.
Today’s teens are the first generation to move through adolescence with social media a major part of everyday life.
Brad Parker says, “Kids now have to learn tough lessons that many of us never had to encounter when we were growing up. I don’t think many teens understand that the Internet makes photos and mistakes accessible for everyone to see…forever.”
Before the Internet, kids who were bullied at school found respite when they got home. Today, bullying can happen in person and then continue online, so it can be unrelenting. For targets of cyberbullying who spend a lot of time on social media, they are subjected to the bullying and its negative effects around the clock.
Brad says, “It’s important to connect with your child. If you suspect they are being physically or emotionally bullied by another student, try to openly speak about it and get as much information as possible. It’s also really important to bring it to the attention of school officials.”
Shutting it Down
The saying is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One of the best ways to stop cyberbullying is to try and address the problem before it escalates. To stay safe with technology, parents should instill these basic principles in their teens.
Don’t Contribute to the Problem
Instruct your kids to never share negative messages they’ve seen. They should also stand up to their peers and protect the target of bullying and block communication from the person sharing the hateful content.
Explain to your teen that any information or images they post online can be used by anyone, even people they don’t know. Sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook allow for quick status updates, but remind your teen that they should be sensitive and make sure they don’t use language that might upset someone.
Tighten Privacy Settings
On social media sites there are settings where you can adjust levels of privacy. Make sure your child understands who is able to see their posts and set privacy settings together.
Keep an Open Door
If your teen uses their phone, tablet or computer in their room, you might have an open-door policy while they're online so you can keep track of which sites they're visiting. You may also choose to have a computer only in a communal area such as the living room or an office.
Understand the Dangers of Webcams
Webcams can be a recipe for disaster. If your teen has a webcam, make them aware of the dangers of posting images online and that they should not do anything they are uncomfortable with while other people are watching.
Keep an Open Line of Communication
Talk to your teen about their day. Ask them about their online activity and which sites they regularly use.
Report Anonymous Bullies
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have ‘safety centers’ especially for this purpose. A website will usually investigate offensive posts and may be able to remove them.
Save the Evidence
Unlike physical abuse or name calling, cyberbullying leaves a trail. If your teen is being cyberbullied, you should save a copy of any messages or evidence.
Like face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can manifest itself in several different kinds of behaviors. Check them out here:
At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.