I wanted to follow up my earlier blog this morning concerning the survey done by the American Osteopathic Association. (You might want to go back and read my previous blog to understand why I am delving a little deeper into the sensitive subject of cyberbullying.) My goal with this blog is to speak directly to parents as I share some important information for them from the Cyberbullying Research Center.
“What is the Cyberbullying Research Center?” you might ask. According to their website, “The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.” It is a great resource for both parents and teachers to enable us to better read the warning signs of cyberbullying as well as providing insightful advice regarding what to do when it is suspected.
With your indulgence, in this blog, I will primarily be addressing parents regarding what I learned from this report, and my next blog will address teachers and schools.
If you are a parent, you might be asking, “How will I know if my child is the victim of cyberbullying unless he tells me he is?”
According to this report, there are warning signs which should set off some signals for you. If your child suddenly stops using their computer or cell phone, or is nervous or jumpy when they receive a text or email, they may be victims of cyberbullying. Cyberbullied teens may also appear uneasy about going to school or even about going outside, may be angry, depressed, or frustrated after using their cell phone or computer, may be uncommunicative about what they are doing on their cell phone or computer, or may begin to withdraw from their friends and family.
Some of you might be saying, “I know my child isn’t being cyberbullied, but I suspect they may be cyberbullies. Are there any signs I should be looking for?”
Yes, according to this report, there are signs to look for. Kids involved in cyberbullying may quickly switch screens or close programs when you are near, get excessively upset if their computer or cell phone privileges are revoked or restricted, go out of their way to avoid discussing what they are doing on their cell phone or computer, or have multiple online accounts or an account that isn’t even theirs.
According to the report, “…if a youth acts in ways that are inconsistent with their usual behavior when using these communication devices, it’s time to find out why.”
Okay, so parents, let’s say that you have observed some of the first set of behaviors I described from this report, and you are beginning to suspect that your child is being cyberbullied. What do you do?
First, the report states the obvious; make certain that your child knows that they have your unconditional support, and that they are safe and secure. Convey the clear message, through both words and actions, that you want the cyberbullying to stop as much as they do. Work together, asking for their perspective and input, to develop a course of action that is agreeable to both of you.
If you feel it is necessary to involve the school, explain to your child that it is important to set up a meeting with the principal or a teacher that your child trusts in order to make the school aware of the cyberbullying. If you feel that it would be beneficial, you may want to contact the father or mother of the guilty party to make them aware of the situation and garner their support in your efforts to stop the cyberbullying. Other suggested contacts are the Internet Service Provider, Cell Phone Service Provider or Content Provider to investigate the issue or to have them remove any offensive material. Most importantly, if any physical threats were made or you have knowledge that a crime might have been committed, the police must be involved.
The bottom line is this, “Victims of cyberbullying (and the bystanders who observe it) must know for sure that the adults who they tell will intervene rationally and logically, and not make the situation worse.”
Now, what if you are a parent who discovers that your child is a cyberbully; what do you do?
The report says to first have a conversation in which you communicate how their behavior affects their victim. Make sure they understand that they are causing real pain and harm. Consequences should be firmly applied based on the seriousness of the incident and whether your child truly understands the pain that their actions triggered. Obviously, if the behavior continues after this first confrontation, consequences need to be tougher.
What about those incidents where the cyberbullying was particularly severe? It may be time to install tracking or filtering software on your child’s computer, or remove all technology privileges for a length of time. And keep checking your child’s Internet and cell phone activities to make certain that they have learned to behave responsively with regard to technology devices.
The report makes some valuable suggestions for educating children early on about the appropriate behavior when they are online. It suggests that parents devise an “Internet Use Contract” as well as a “Cell Phone Use Contract” which reflect those positive morals and values that are taught in your home regarding how we treat others. The contracts should make it clear what is acceptable behavior and what is not when using these devices.
Now, here is something I love; both the child and the parent must agree to the terms of these contracts, and the contracts should be posted in a visible place. Violations to the contracts should be met with immediate consequences appropriate to the offense.
Finally, the report emphasizes the necessity of monitoring your child’s activities, especially in the beginning, when they are online. It suggests informal monitoring by being an active participant in their online activities or through monitoring software. Keep those lines of communication open and honest so that they know they can come to you if something unpleasant or distressing occurs when they are interacting on either their computer or cell phone.
Set the tone early and consistently about appropriate behavior online and on cell phones. Be ready to teach and reteach what is allowed, and lead by example. If your children see you using your computer and cell phone responsibly and respectfully, they are more likely to take your lead.
Above all, be watchful, be open, and be aware of what your kids are doing on their computers and cell phones. Being proactive may keep you from having to be reactive.
Bullying, Teacher-World's Blog