We talk a lot about bullying here at The Stir. As a parent, it's one of the scariest things for me to contemplate, especially given the rash of youth suicides following periods of relentless bullying. And as someone who was on the playground in the 1970s and '80s, it's also difficult to comprehend why bullying is worse now than it was when I was a kid.
Bullies have always sucked. Whether they threaten you in person, or online. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a modern kid and wondered: Why would it be worse to get an email, than a shove into the locker?
IT Specialist Karl Volkman of SRV Networks filled me in on the new dangers of cyberbulling, verses the bullying of yore.
Volkman explains, "Unfortunately, most parents do not know the extent that chat, email, texting, and social networking is being used by teens and many parents are in the dark about how it works."
While I like to think I have a handle on the technology available to my kids, that's not the only problem, says Volkman, "Many teens may feel more emboldened to expose their feelings in this media which can open more to ridicule. Sometimes it is much easier to put thoughts out through the fingertips than to say them. Unfortunately, something typed on the Internet may live for hours, days, months, or even years. The bullies can now humiliate the victim in front of larger audiences. A single statement, photo, etc., can last for a while on the Internet so the single act can linger longer. And it is easier to bully if one only has to type or click; the bully no longer needs to be the biggest kid who was left behind twice."
In addition to setting age restrictions on social media activity such as Facebook, and always monitoring your child's laptop, cell phone, Xbox group, and anything else they come up with while I'm writing this sentence, Volkman has some other rules to follow:
- Be open about it with your kids. As they say "honesty is the best policy," this holds true when discussing bullying with your children. Regularly check in with your children to make sure they aren't being bullied and discuss the importance of being responsible when they're on the web.
- Teach your kids the importance of letting things roll of their backs. Your children need to understand that a bully is going to continue bullying if you give them more attention. The best thing to do if a bully is bothering your child is to tell them to ignore that person. Bullies feed off of negative attention and energy, and most bullies give kids a hard time because they yearn for more attention. Teach your children not to respond, but they do need to show an adult.
Do you worry about cyberbulling?
Image via J_O_I_D/Flickr