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Real Talk: Start the conversation about cyber bullying

A mother's perspective

Bullying is not a new occurrence in our society, but the invasiveness of cyberbullying is. The person who came up with the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” never considered the possibility of the hurtful words being seen by millions of people and constant alerts all day through mobile devices. Bullying is a learned behavior. We need to spend more time focusing on the bullies to help prevent the creation of more victims.

What if your child is the bully?
My husband and I maintain an open and ongoing dialogue about our children’s technology use. If I was alerted to cyber bullying behavior by one of my daughters, I would ask her why she felt the aggressive behavior was warranted and acceptable. I want her to know I am on her side, but I also want to understand what led to this behavior. Honesty and openness is the key to getting to the truth. My husband and I have the freedom to check our daughter’s device at any time and let her know we are checking up on her activity. 

Bullying is viewed as a prank in some cases. This is a problem. Groups of teens find it amusing to hurt their peers. People go as far as creating fake accounts to bully others anonymously. The power to stop bullying is in the hands of the bullies.

If I find there is clear evidence of my daughter engaging in repetitive hurtful behavior, all of her technology access is rescinded.

Children need to understand all bullying can be charged through New York State law, and there are real penalties to be paid if their behavior is deemed unacceptable. I have always used the opportunity of looking through the school district’s code of conduct at the beginning of the school year. It is also important to go over it at the conclusion of the school year to review the expectations and consequences before the summer break.   

Is your child a victim?
If I thought something was going on I would ask my daughter about it directly. Then we can make a plan of action based on the severity of the situation.

It is important to understand where the bullying is coming from to determine how to get it to stop.

I used to think cyberbullying was unique to social media, but it turns out gaming apps are just as pervasive when it comes to exposing children to cyber bullying. It is never safe to assume the bullying is linked to school.

With this in mind, there is an even bigger problem when children are not honest with their parents to help them get out of their bullied situation.

Learn the signs of bullying to help determine if you need to get external assistance with dealing with your child’s challenges. For instance, if my child was not speaking to me about what was going on, I may bring the issue to her guidance counselor in school to see if there were any suggestions available to find out what’s going on. On the other hand, there are several applications available allowing parents to keep close track of their children’s technological activity. I guess this works for those parents comfortable spying on their children.

Make sure your kids are safe online explains that most parents are unaware of their teen’s digital activity, which puts their children in the most danger. Many applications link users randomly, especially while using gaming applications. Parents need to check out the new application prior to the child gaining full freedom with the application. It is recommended parents not only read about what the application is used for but watch your children while learning how to navigate it.

In the past, children were able to deal with bullies face-to-face, but it becomes more complicated when the bully is hiding behind a digital platform under the mask of anonymity. Parents should periodically check the privacy setting for their children’s social media to make sure only authorized individuals have access to their pages.

Kristina Lasher has her B.S. in Communications with a focus in culture. She is a married mother of two daughters and two step-daughters.

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