Are You Raising a CyberBully?
By Vicky Creasy
By now, you are probably pretty familiar with the term cyberbullying. If you’re a parent, you have probably ready about horror stories of students being cyberbullied beyond your worst nightmares. You may have read of experiences that have driven kids to high levels of depression and to shy away from the world. The truth is, if you are honest with yourself, you can probably conjure up a memory of yourself either being bullied or bullying another child when you were younger. I have two vibrant memories of being bullied that changed who I was as a child.
Bullying has been around since the beginning of time. And, in all honesty, adults have allowed bullying to occur because it was the natural order or things. The phrase “kids will be kids” was tossed around excusing the behavior. However, we live in a new era. On April 20, 1999, our eyes were opened as to how much of an effect bullying can have on kids. Two bullied high school students took revenge on their school with automatic weapons, and all of a sudden, bullying became a buzzword. States began to author laws on bully prevention and anti-bullying task forces were created.
Then the world began to change rapidly. The internet entered the households of America. Facebook was born. Kids started getting cell phones with internet connections. Adolescents could now become anonymous and torture their peers in new ways. Kids that used to be able to escape the bullying at school in the safety of their own homes now had no escape. The bullying became intrusive- it was on their cell phone, on their computer, and on their Facebook page. Girls could now become the target of lists circulated through emails. People could take compromising pictures any time and share it with the world. Bullying and the internet birthed cyberbullying.
While the nation is trying to figure out a way to end this terrible behavior, I ask you to look closely at yourself. Kids are the products of their environments. They are wonderful mirrors to the households they grow up in. So, I ask you, are you raising a cyberbully? What are you doing to prevent your child not from being the victim but from being the attacker? Here are a few simple ways that you can prevent the bullying from initiating from your most precious offspring.
· Know your child’s password to everything. Check their accounts regularly. Kids appreciate healthy boundaries. While they may object to your intrusion on their freedom initially, they secretly enjoy it. Children are eager to tell their friends that they have to be on their best behavior because their parents check their accounts.
· Teach your children empathy every single chance that you get. When your child tells you their teacher was mean to them today, ask them why they think their teacher acted that way – Was she having a bad day? Were students misbehaving? Was she overwhelmed? When someone else is mean to them at school, instead of running to their rescue, ask them to wonder why the other child was behaving that way. When kids are taught to value other people’s feelings, they begin to see everyone as a valuable contributor to this world. They will be much less likely to join the bandwagon of bullying and much more likely to stand up for the underdog.
· Children do not need to be alone behind closed doors with computers or phones or tablets. Set healthy family rules so that kids know there is no privacy when they are online. Make sure that they know you can randomly walk in at any moment. This will actually make them feel more secure and less worried about having to take chances sneaking around.
· Make sure your children know that they can come to you for anything and will not be judged. Often, children don’t want to tell their parents about something terrible being done to another kid because they fear what their parents will do. Respect what they feel should be done. If they are the witness to a bullying situation and don’t want you to call the principal, ask what they think you should do. Respect their opinion and use this as an opportunity to learn your child’s world.
· Immerse yourself in your child’s life. Make them feel loved and liked by you. I have no idea why teenagers like to dress so “uniquely” and have such “lovely” attitudes, but really, they are seeking approval. And, while their peers are important to impress, they really want to know that their parents not only love them but like them too.
· Be quick to forgive your children and even quicker to help model better behavior. While you might expect teens to make smarter decisions than they do, remember that the very last part of their brain to develop is the part that allows for impulse control. Not until they are almost 25 is their brain fully developed and able to understand the full consequences of their behavior. This is not an excuse to bully others, but it is an opportunity to realize that teens are not adults and are not capable of making the best decisions all of the time. Allow them to tell you of their mistakes and not to fear your reaction.
We are in this boat together. Our generation can make responsible use of the technology we have been given. We can be the generation that not only ends bullying but keeps the term cyberbullying from surviving long enough to enter all of our dictionaries. Let’s change the world by changing our own children, and they can change the world around them.
If you enjoyed this post check out what another K12 International Academy Teacher had to say HERE