Remember the days when the schoolyard bully was that person you just tried to avoid? He or she would call you ugly names, steal your lunch money and threaten to beat you up after school, or maybe trip you or push you into a locker during gym class. Unfortunately, our kids today face bullies who utilize every form of technology to take tormenting their victims to a whole new and often times dangerous level!
Cyber bullying is the use of technology and information to torment, threaten, harass, embarrass and humiliate another person. This is especially prevalent in the adolescent to teen age group. As parents we need to know as much as possible to arm ourselves and our kids against this new form of antagonism.
Our oldest is 13 and he has a cell phone. He has begun to text and has just opened a Facebook account. I realize that there are parents out there who disagree with our decision to allow our young teenager to be so involved in social media, but I can assure you we reached this decision only after giving it a lot of thought. There is such an advantage to these forms of communication, if used wisely. But one of the issues we discussed with our teen is to be mindful about possible cyber bullying.
Let’s face it, it’s probably a lot easier to bully someone online than in person. There’s a false sense of anonymity that these bullies think they have online, which can lead to even more aggressive behavior than in the old days of school yard bullying. Some of the victims of cyber bullying are afraid or embarrassed to go to school, develop low self esteem, start displaying academic problems and can even have suicidal thoughts! We’ve all heard tragic stories on the news where a teenager has committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied online!
According to Eric Kurt, Academic Director of the Web Design and Interactive Media Program at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, reminds parents that we must set appropriate and safe boundaries for our teens and their social networking.
It’s our responsibility as parents to make sure our kids are neither victims nor bullies. From the time they could walk, we knew who they were with, what they were doing, and where they were. When technology becomes the way that they communicate and socialize, we should still know who they’re associating with, where they’re at online, and what it is they actually do online!
Do you have kids who are old enough to take part in social media? How do you protect them from cyber bullies?