lifestyle

"Bullying that could reach you in your own home? I wasn’t prepared for this."

internet safety for teens
Bern with her daughter.

These days, it’s pretty rare for me to have a solid 20 minutes ALONE with my 15-year-old daughter. And if we do get the chance, it’s often in the car. I’ll either be dropping her somewhere or picking up ALL of her friends (the upside to having a seven-seater car, I guess) or just generally being a taxi driver. And as much as I joke that it won’t be long until she will be the one dropping ME places, I really do quite adore this time we get together, just her and I, because it allows us to chat about the parts of our lives we never quite get around to when life is so hectic.

Once upon a time, it was all we had together. Endless hours where it was just she and I. Back then though, our conversations were a lot simpler. In fact, back then, before her brothers came along, before she had her own life, most of our conversations revolved around the Blue Wiggle and singing variations of Hot Potato. Now though, I’ve found our conversations are a little more specific.

For example, a few weeks ago, we started discussing Instagram. Now, being a parent who is quite up to date with all forms of social media, I never dreamed that I’d miss something as huge as what she was about to drop upon me, but miss it I did. See, it seems that one of her best friends had been quite badly bullied online and on her Instagram account (and it is becoming more and more common, according to my daughter).

  Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Nissan Pathfinder. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words. 

internet safety for teensOne photo had sparked controversy amongst their friends. So much so, that one girl had swayed most of her friends to taunt this other girl, ‘unfriend’ her and basically distance themselves from her. This girl had gone into hiding, refusing to go to school. Another, my daughter told me, had sent a picture via text to her boyfriend that was supposed to be private that had in turn been shared over Facebook and Instagram. Yes, this sounds completely terrible and I would argue, a breach of privacy, but these kids are TEENAGERS. They need to understand that what they do right now, what they share online, can stay with them forever. Worse than that, it can set off a chain of events that will irrevocably change another person’s life, forever.

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I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for this. I was prepared to discuss boys and future career aspirations and friendships because I’d gone through all of these myself as a teen. But bullying that happened after the bell sounded? Bullying that could reach you in your own home, after hours? No, this was a whole new world for me. And one which I had to look into further.

So after some research I found some great tips, some great conversation starters for the next time we found ourselves alone together in the car, discussing life online and all things internet. And thanks to the Raising Children Website, I came up with the following:

internet safety for teens– Treat online friends with as much respect as those you meet face-to-face

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– Always remember that it’s often hard to ‘read’ emotion in emails and online posts so try not to take offence

– Never leave rude or nasty comments on posts, nor should you accept them if left on your own page

– Block or ‘unfriend’ people who don’t treat you with respect

– Always be careful about the comments you post and the photos you upload

– ALWAYS report abuse

– Be cautious about identity, because not everyone online is who they say they are

– Only ever accept ‘friend requests’ from people you know

– Try not to share too much personal information publicly

– Keep privacy settings up to date on all social networking sites

– Keep passwords and log-in details private and secret from friends

Most importantly, what I wanted to make abundantly clear when we finally got the chance to talk, just her and I, was that she knew that she could always talk to me, about anything. That regardless of how huge it felt at the time, I would ALWAYS understand and be there for her.

We’ve entered a brave new world as parents with the World Wide Web (NEVER call it that in front of your teen, by the way). But we must remember it is our responsibility to keep up to date with this ever-changing world so that our children feel both supported and understood. Perhaps try to have the discussion next time you get the chance to take a trip in the car together, when things are comfortable, quiet and distraction-free.

And for the avid social media users among you, have a flick through the below. We challenge you not to chuckle in agreeance …

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