It seems like every other week we hear a heart wrenching news story about a child who was the victim of bullying and chose to take his/her life. As a parent, I cannot imagine the horror that child’s family has to endure as a result of bullying. Hearing these new stories, I am always reminded by how deeply words can affect us. Do you remember that old saying, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” I think it’s safe to say that this is false because words can hurt others. Your words have POWER. Can you remember someone saying something mean or cruel to you when you were a child? I certainly can. I don’t know if I considered it bullying but it was. As silly as it may seem, words can stick with you, and sometime, have a way of haunting you for years and years.
Nowadays, bullying as moved into cyberbullying. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, cyberbullying is when someone uses a social media platform to attack you verbally and/or spread rumors. For most teens, the concepts of fitting in and feeling accepted are as crucial as food and water. Unfortunately, some kids take their bullying from the school day to after school. I think it’s important to be proactive and never assume that your child hasn’t or won’t be the victim of bullying at some point in the future. With that being said, as a parent, what can you do to help protect your child? Here’s a few suggestions:
- I strong advise parents to be very familiar with what sites your child is using both on the phones as well as tablets, laptops, etc. Remember you are in charge as the parent. Even if your teen purchased the phone and/or pays the monthly bill, they are a minor and you are running the show. If you aren’t aware of what’s going on, how can you protect your child from bullying?
- Don’t assume your child will tell you all the sites they use. New sites pop up all the time, so do your research. Some apps also pose as others to try to hide certain things. If your child is being bullied, you may be unaware even if you do check their phone. Again, it is important to educate yourself on these apps.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. This is key. You have to have an open line of communication with your child so that they can tell you if they are having issues regarding bullying. If they are afraid you are going to get angry or are too busy to chat, forget about it. Your teen isn’t going to feel that they can be open with you.
- Educate your child about the dangers online. Don’t assume that now that they are a teenager, they know these dangers. If you can communicate to them about how predators and bullies can target them, then you have just empowered to help protect themselves.
I know that many parents are concerned about violating their teen’s privacy. I think it’s important to remember that one of your main jobs as a parent is to protect your child. You have many more years of wisdom and knowledge about the dangers online and the world around us. Also, remember you are their parent, not their best friend. I fully believe that you can respect your teen as a person while still taking measures to protect them.