By BERN MORLEY.
It’s a brave new world we find ourselves in as parents isn’t it? I’m talking about the cyber world. When I was a kid, bullying consisted of school yard fights and being locked out of the hall by the mean girls at lunch time.
Now there is this whole new world where our children are living out a large majority of their lives online. It’s constant, 24/7 and it involves Facebook, email, mobile phones, text messages, twitter, Instagram, the list goes on. But what makes it cyber bulling?
And how do we prevent our own children from not only being the victims, but also prevent them from being the unwitting perpetrators?
Cyber bullying is any kind of bullying or harassment that uses technology. This can be of the emotional, written and verbal variety, same as regular bullying. It’s not always blatant bullying, it can be as simple as being excluded i.e. being blocked, unfriended or even an obvious invite omission.
There have been some terrible and unfortunately catastrophic consequences where teens have been cyber bullied and I am constantly aware, as a parent of a new teen, to keep an ever watchful eye out for this.
So what can you do?
1. Make sure the computer they use can be seen or is in a public space. As tempting as it is to allow them take the laptop off to their bedroom so they can “do their homework” whatever it is they need to do can be done in a public space, not in private. Until they can pay for their own wi-fi, they will have to understand that you own the password and therefore, if they don’t like it, you can simply turn it off.
2. Become familiar with their world. I’m not saying you need to start yelling YOLO to your child as they walk through the school gates of a morning (Please don’t do this), I just mean that you should know what it is that your children are using on a daily basis. Learn about Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram (don’t worry too much about Google +). You don’t have to use them yourself or even like them, but at least understand their purpose and in turn, stay relevant.
3. Limit the time they are allowed on the devices. Understandably, this won’t be so easy on their mobile phone but at night, the computer shouldn’t be a portal to constant interaction. It should be used first and foremost to complete their homework. Then, sure, an hour should be allowed and allocated for social interaction. If this isn’t stipulated and controlled, believe me, your teenager will be on there until you physically pull the plug around midnight.
4. Keep the lines of Communication Open.Help them to understand the distress that cyber bullying causes by showing them how they’d feel to experience it. The old saying “You can’t really know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes” has never been more apt than in this situation. It is so easy to forget how something might make us personally feel when it’s not directly happening to us, so point it out, gently, to your son or daughter, how it may feel for example, to be left out or to be talked about negatively in a public forum.