Cyberbullying and Cyber Safety
Since cyberbullying is something that most teens encounter, it’s important that we prepare them to deal with difficult, hurtful, and hateful people online. Here are some tips from youth speaker and bullying expert Jeff Veley on how you can best prepare your child for what they may encounter online.
1. Ask yourself if it is more/less beneficial for your teen to have a certain social media account. Don’t cave because “it’s the cool thing to do”. Make sure that your decision is rooted in your child’s best interest.
2. Have a conversation about your expectations online and write a contract together… What’s appropriate? What isn’t? What’s an acceptable amount of time online? Can your child connect with someone they haven’t met in person or someone that you don’t know? Writing a social media contract together insures that both you and your teen are clear on expectations.
3. Engage in ongoing supervision of these accounts. Remember that your teen may have accounts that are not visible to you. They may also add additional accounts/apps on their computer or smart phone over time, so it’s important to check back frequently. You may find it helpful to use a parental supervision program like “Truth Locker” or “Zabra” to help you monitor your teens’ online conversations and texts.
4. Prepare a response to cyberbullying before it happens. Create some scenarios with your teen and rehearse appropriate responses with them. The best way to respond to someone that is being difficult, hurtful, or hateful online is to stay calm and be kind to that person. The person that is bullying wants your teen to get upset and react like a victim. If they don’t get upset the bully often loses interest and moves on. Responding with unkind words or embarrassing the aggressor only fuels their anger and escalates the situation. Instead of responding with hate, teach your teen to respond in love by staying calm and treating the other person like a friend. They will quickly see that it takes away the aggressors’ power and makes it more likely that others will step up and tell the bully to stop
5. Use inappropriate posts as conversation starters with your teen about the consequences making poor choices online. Every post contains a teachable moment. Most of all, don’t overreact when you see something inappropriate! Staying calm will help your teen feel more comfortable coming to you in the future. Cyberbullying is an incredible opportunity for you to teach your teen how to respond to negative people/comments using your family values. In addition, it presents a unique moment for your teen to practice appropriate social skills and build resiliency. Help them form their response and coach them through the situation.
6. While it’s best to respond in love (using the Golden Rule) in most situations, there are also times that teens must set a clear boundary and make a report, especially if someone is in danger or being threatened. Often teens feel guilty if they “unfriend”, “block”, or “report” someone online because they are afraid of the backlash that could happen when they set a boundary. Make sure that they understand that it isn’t rude to set a boundary with someone that repeatedly mistreats them. This will help your child know that they have the right to set standards in relationships regarding how they are treated and who they are willing to interact with.
Source: Jaana Jovonen, PhD, “Extending the School Grounds? – Bullying Experiences in Cyberspace”, The Journal of School Health, 2008