Why does cyber-bullying happen and what can parents do?

This blog/the information contained herein is taken from a workshop I recently attended on Cyber-bullying, presented by Janice Gabe, LCSW. LCAC, of New Perspectives of Indiana, Inc.

Why does Cyber-bullying happen?

1. Adult don’t check what their children are doing/writing on line and/or they are locked out or lack the knowledge to fully navigate the web to monitor what their children are saying on websites.

2. Teens say and do things online that they would never do to someone face-to-face.  When bullying someone online, teens are removed from the emotional impact their behavior has on others. Therefore, they do not have an opportunity to develop an emphatic response to their victim.  And when teens are not help accountable, their behavior, particularly in large groups, as in a chat room or facebook website, quickly escalates.

3. Technology at their finger tips feeds off the impulsive nature of teens.  They get caught up in the moment and do not have/take time to cool down or reflect,  investigate or think about the situation before responding.

4. There are no boundaries on the internet.  Children do not function well without boundaries.

5. We have not “taught” teens about appropriate internet behavior.  Teens do not generalize information well between like situations and certainly do not generalize rules about social behavior to a very different medium, the internet.

6. The internet can be a vortex with too many irresistible options and most teens (and adults for that matter!) lack the self regulation skills to manage these temptations.

What can adults do…

1. INSIST your children grant you full access (aka, passwords, etc) to their sights, make them show you around their pages, look (aka, snoop) around on their pages when they are not around.  How do I insist?  You pay for their service don’t you?  This is their lifeline!  Don’t be hesitant to pull the plug unless they grant you access.

2. After you read dialogues they have participated in on line, role-play out these dialogues with them.  This will help your teen to realize the impact of what they are saying to the other person…this teaches your teen to have empathy, shows them how the internet blinds them to the impact of their words, helps them to stop and think before they type, etc.  They will resist participating in this role-play (and you may feel uncomfortable also!) but insist.

3. Share with them when you have acted impulsively over the internet and what you said, what happened.  Kids love to hear stories from their parents, about their parents and they do listen, especially when you admit mistakes and describe the consequences you have lived with as a result.  This teaches, indirectly, self restraint…something teens need.

4. Sit and think about appropriate rules when having a conversation/dialog over the internet. Then, have a conversation with your teen about what are some rules to keep in mind when on the net.  Ask them what they think are some rules to operate by.  Then share your rules.  Pose situations that you think your teen would struggle with and discuss how they and how you would respond to it and why.  Teens learn best from being put into such situations and more easily transfer the learning from such to situations they encounter on their own.

5. Limit “screen-time” and hover when your teen is on-line.  Put their or the family computer in a central area in the house (versus in the teens room).

6. Establish limits…i.e., no phone after 9 pm, no computer after 9 pm.

7. Follow-up…check their phone, check their facebook pages, etc.

8. Stop being on the internet/your phone so much!  If you limit their time/activities on the net but are constantly on it/them yourself, you are sending a double message.

9. Network…call the parents of your closest teens to see what they know about the teens recent internet activities.  The same with the teens’ school counselor. Often, the school population will know what is going on on the net and that quickly works it’s way back to the counselors/teachers/secretaries, etc.

10. Talk to your kids.  Talk about what is going on on-line, conversations/dialogues they have had recently.  Ask them about what they thought during the dialogue and what they said and share what your reactions are to this…respectfully.

More later…

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