An old U.S Marine once told me that going to war is sometimes necessary.
Despite all the advances in technology, we can say with certainty that human behavior is predictable and that cyberbullying will never be fully eradicated. If you love your child, you must train them to stand up for themselves when a bully confronts them, and tell them that facing a bully head on is OK.
In the new age of information, we need to teach our kids more life skills than anything else.
Why so many parents are afraid to speak about serious matters with their kids is beyond me. Cyberbullying isn’t going to magically go away, but teen suicide rates because of bullying can decrease.
We need to help our kids to defend themselves face-to-face, rather than making them believe that young and immature kids will stop bullying them, especially behind the walls of a social media platform. Kids need to develop strong social skills at an early age, and learn not to not doubt themselves just because of what others say online. Tell your child: You are so much more than what others say in these social media environments.
All of this cyberbullying capability is handicapping our children socially, and making talented young minds scared for life. We need to do something about this issue in a meaningful way. Here is my solution.
First, start communicating with your children early on about the importance of developing courage, and the inevitable reality that they one day will face opposition in life. Explain to them that technology will never protect them from the dangers of cyberbullying or any other bullying. Make sure you tell them that in this world, what they do with technology, not the technology itself, is what will help them to be somebody one day.
Second, develop a Techno Moderation strategy for your kids. Enable them to use technology for a few hours each day for educational purposes up to fifth grade. Don’t give your kid their own smartphone before they reach the age of 13, under any circumstances.
Install and tell your kids that you have installed TeenSafe on their smartphones, and that you will be checking on their smartphone activity once in a while because you are the parent, period. If they give you a hard time about it, you tell them, “OK. Then you won’t have a smartphone, because I am the parent.”
Remember, you are not your kid’s buddy. You are their parent.
Third, when your kid reaches the age of 15, have a conversation with them about sex. Explain that in this life there are tons of predators who want to take advantage of them, including those who will bully them for self-gratification. Affirm to them that chances are high that one day, somebody inevitably will say something online that they won’t like. Give them the assurance that they can, and probably should, let you know when that happens.
Make a vow with them! As long as they use technology moderately, you will pay for their smartphone bill. If you have a difficult time conveying your message to them when they reach puberty, ask someone you trust, like a close adult friend or perhaps a mature sibling, to intervene.
Lastly, before they turn 18 make a deal with them. If anyone attempts to cyberbully them, tell them to ignore the message and ask them to come home. Have a chat with them about the situation and remind them that sticking to themselves is OK. Help them, if necessary. The goal is to train them that they, not technology or any other person, control their lives, and that you are there for them if they need help.
With these steps and others, I bet that our indices of suicide in teens among those who experience cyberbullying would decrease exponentially.
We can make great strides in cyberbullying by being involved parents. Helping our kids with conquering these cyberchallenges is part of our job description as parents.
Be ready to coach your son or daughter in this highly technological world we live in these days. Cyberbullying is a problem, but we can fix it. All we have to do is to be a bit more involved and pay attention to the early signs of abuse.