We don’t think about it until someone we know and care about is affected.
Bullying is nothing new. I experienced my share in school. Each of our sons had theirs in junior high and high school.
I was astounded to discover that, if you are a boy starting 7th grade, you better wear boxer shorts or the “sports jocks” will taunt you in the dressing room before physical education class. Even though my son talked to the teacher, it didn’t stop. So, we outfitted my son with boxer shorts. It didn’t stop the bullying entirely, but we did remove an extremely uncomfortable situation for my son.
It’s no surprise that bullying has gone online. Social media tools connect teens with their friends at all hours of the day and night. And it is so easy to set up a page/account.
Harmless Prank or Something More?
When he was a freshman in high school, some girls decided to set up a page on MySpace for my older son. My son wasn’t interested in having a page but when he told them he didn’t want one, the girls took matters into their own hands. Fortunately, my son was able to get the password for the page from those girls. He changed the password and the girls moved on to some other amusement.
But, that event worried me. It was too easy for those girls to become someone else online. So when my oldest signed up for Facebook, I did, too. To avoid freaking out his friends, I didn’t comment on his page in public. But I was able to see what was going on. I did the same for our younger son a few years later. Unfortunately, not enough parents are aware that they need be continually communicating with their teens about what’s happening on social media. It’s not just Facebook anymore
The statistics are shocking:
One million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook during the past year. (Consumer Reports, 2011)
1 in 6 parents know their child has been bullied via a social networking site. (American Osteopathic Association, 2011)
More girls are cyberbullies than boys (59% girls and 41% boys) (Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey: Cyber bullying, Sexting and Parental Controls. Cox Communications Teen Online and Wireless Safety Survey in Partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2009.)
Start by talking with your teen. You can use the Safety Tips that are available on this page atInternet Safety 101. You can also download a two page tip sheet to share with your son or daughter.
Or, use this Safebook poster from Fuzion Marketing-PR-Design (PDF available for download). Have your son or daughter share it with friends.
Let’s teach our teens the importance of maintaining privacy, know who they are “friending” online and to speak out if they are being cyberbullied or someone they know is. Let’s let each teen know how much we care and want to help.