Bullying has taken on a whole new life with today’s kids. It’s a whole new monster.
It seemed like things changed overnight, what used to be done with secret note passing was now done over email and MSN, things that used to be yelled down the hall or said to each other on the street were now being posted on public online forums like Nexopia and Facebook. I remember having to make phone calls to youth and take screen shots of what some of them were posting expecting possible legal ramifications. These screenshots would have first need to be examined by photo and Video Forensic Experts to prove they were real. However, they then could be used in court to prosecute the online bullies.
The craziest part was that the bullying wasn’t coming from the same kids that might have overtly said something in a school hallway, these were the quiet more reserved kids that were getting themselves into trouble. It wasn’t just things being said about their peers either, slanderous things were being posted about their teachers and their friends would join in the conversation.
Gossip and venting had suddenly turned into type written, public slander. Feeling less risky but far more dangerous because of the proof left behind.
Things have progressed since then, today it seems like every youth has a cell phone with private accounts and apps like “snapchat” which allow anything to be said without major consequence because the message deletes itself (in actuality screen shots can and are taken so the anonymity is not real).
Texting threats and coercing people to do things without having to look them in the eye is an incredibly dangerous issue.
Kids and youth and even adults are becoming more brazen and less hesitant and I’ve even seen that habit of being bold behind a screen eventually change the in-person/public personality of some of these kids.
Schools can’t keep up, and although much, if not all of it is illegal, the police only get involved when something bad or big happens. By that time it’s too late.
The real responsibility lies with us as parents. Here are three things we need to start with to help our children stand up to the influence of the world and not get bullied or even become bullies:
1. Build them up. Positive self-worth and identity are the foundation. Kids can be terribly cruel, I remember being coerced into bullying younger kids myself because I wanted to be accepted by those who were bullying me. Our children NEED a deep sense of self worth in order to stand up for themselves. Encourage your children’s strengths and give them a safe place to call home.
2. Engage with them. Compassion and empathy are vital. We must be teaching our children what it means to care about and for others. Talk them through realities of homelessness, engage in conversations about bullying or racism and talk them through the need to be loving and compassionate towards EVERYONE.
3. Limit the power of outside influence. We MUST be diligent and aware of what our kids are doing. Unrestricted access to media or cell phones should not be allowed without a proper system and history of building trust. I am more and more disturbed when I talk with groups of elementary school kids only to find out that about 4 out of 10 kids under 10 have some kind of internet based tablet, iPod or game system. First, our kids don’t need these things at all, and definitely not their own devices, but more importantly they should NEVER be given to our kids without strict limitations and parental controls put onto every device.
Click here for the Three Layered Approach to Online and device safety in your home.
HERE for a complete list of safety software and tools required to protect your home and children.