I hate you, you are ugly, hey fatty, do the world a favor and just die. Can you believe that such horrible comments are coming from the mouths of the little ones we call our children? Unfortunately comments such as these are causing large concerns in our society. Comments from the lips of babes can no longer be ignored and passed off as “just things kids say” they are becoming increasingly vulgar, alarming and harmful. Our concern for our children being harassed can no longer include only outside our home but now must focus on what is happening to them inside the walls where they should be safe. The crime I am speaking about is not domestic abuse from parents or guardians but the act of cyber-bullying from peers. Parents we cannot sit and wait for the educational system to combat and control this new trend. We must step in and educate our children for their protection. I am sure you are wondering where to start and what you should do. I am no expert but I do have a few suggestions to get you started.
First, we must monitor our children’s online activity. Parents should not allow a child to have any social media accounts that they cannot log into at any time to see what is going on. Some would argue this is an invasion of privacy but I argue that until my child is a responsible adult able to reason and critically think through situations it is my job as a parent to keep him safe. I need to know that my child is not being exposed to porn, visiting sites he should not, or worse becoming a victim of or instigating any type of cyber-bullying.
Second, we must educate our children about the issue of cyber-bullying just like we would a child picking on them at school. We need to lay our child out a plan to follow if they encounter any type of bullying. You must be a parent first and a friend later, but you need a stable relationship so the child feels they can talk to you about anything. Do not limit your child to your help alone encourage them to seek help from a school counselor or teacher if they need to. We want our child to be able to come to us with anything anytime but reality is we may not always be available. Children need to know there is help in other trusted sources. Never try to force a child into talking with threats or violence. Encourage them gently and when they are ready they will find you.
Third, talk to your child about their day. Pay attention to any cues that anything could be wrong. Listen to your parental instinct. Never ignore what your child says. Stop what you are doing and listen or else they may feel you do not care and stop trying to get your help.
The final step you can take to help your child and prevent cyber-bullying starts with you. Teach your children how to properly handle anger, aggression, and hurt. Teach your child respect and to say “I am sorry” when they have hurt another. In fact make those words the beginning of any type of reprimand you use for their unkind acts. Do not allow your child to use name calling when they are upset or in a joking manner. Children often do not see the humor in being called a name even if it was added on the end of a joke. Punishment should serve the crime and each parent has their own idea on what works. The important thing is not to negatively affect the child but to do something that will positively affect them. Do not just tell them how to act show them. Do not let the tiny harmful things slide make them apologize. Do not sugar- coat the face of cyber-bullying tell them the blunt truth about what can happen. Perform an online search and pull up real-life cases where children have gone as far as to take their own life to avoid the harmful comments of their peers. The truth as ugly as it is needs to be explained by the heinous facts that surround it.
Stay in touch with what goes on with your child at school by talking to your child. Monitor your child’s online activity. Do not permit any form of name calling or bullying. Attend PTA meetings to talk to your child’s teacher. Continue to educate yourself and your child on how to avoid and end the terrible acts of cyber-bullying. If you child is or knows someone who is experiencing the terrible realization of cyber-bullying encourage them to seek help and make sure you tell them how. Anyone can become a victim of cyber-bullying and believe it or not anyone can become a ring leader of the violence with or without direct intention.