Have you been bullied lately? Probably not, but to get you in the right mindset, think about your commute this morning, and that car that cut you off… Feel it now? That’s what it feels like for your kids when they get bullied, online, anonymously.
Imagine that driver posts online about cutting you off, mocking the kind of car you drive, its color, or maybe that it needs a wash. They take it a step further, start talking about the way you drive, your hair color, your weight, your skin, and then, hundreds of followers, start commenting, and agree “What a total LOSER” “They are SO fat, ugly, and stupid”.
You’re an adult. You can probably handle this type of criticism from strangers, because you know who you are. You have the life skills and experience to adequately shrug off this type of behavior.
If you’re 11, you don’t have this capability.
Recent stories in the media, like the Stuebenville, OH and Saratoga, CA cases, are examples of bullying that ended tragically. The sad truth is, cyber bullying runs rampant globally. When we present to both parents and students, we see the reality of online bullying in their faces.
We’ve seen the girl, in the back of the crowd in a middle school classroom, whose face changed when we mentioned the word cyber bully. She had brown hair and a jean jacket on. The presentation had to keep moving, but it was difficult because the way her face changed caused extreme emotions to come up. Peter’s voice stumbled, he hesitated, and that’s a face that he won’t soon forget. Bullying was her reality. Her every day. Her this morning. He finished his section on cyberbullying with words he hoped gave her courage “Don’t be a victim. Don’t let somebody tell you who you are.”
One slide in our presentation highlights the consequences for the bully, which include: suspension, expulsion, and criminal charges.
But what we’re concerned about, are the consequences for the victim. These include: depression, withdrawal, low self esteem, and harming themselves.
The tool we teach your kids: Stop. Block. Tell. Stop means don’t respond (side note, it’s key to tell your child not to respond because that creates conversation, not bullying, in the eyes of the law. It is very difficult to prove a case of cyber bullying when there is conversation back and forth), it also means don’t forward to friends. Block means use the technology for good – block, unfriend, unfollow the bully. Tell means find a trusted adult and tell them what’s happening.
The tool we hope you teach your kids: self-worth. Teach it early, teach it often, teach it NOW. Kids who feel good about themselves are less likely to end up being the victim or the bully, they are also less likely to share inappropriate pictures of themselves online. Have conversations with your kids that bring up concrete examples of real life consequences for those who share online inappropriately, or what we call the Wave of Regret.
We’re here for you and your questions. You can comment below, or follow Taylor on Twitter @tctompkins