We know parenting doesn’t come with a manual. We learn to parent from our own experiences, from our own research and from the experience of our friends and friends of friends. Fe Taylor hopes her story can awaken other parents of tweens to the minefield of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is officially described as using technology to harass, threaten, embarrass and target another person. Raising tweens just got a lot harder. Our kids are attached to their devices. Honestly, they walk room to room with their phones in the hand. It is their link to their friends, 24/7. They chat, share photos and memes, listen to music and YouTube videos and sometimes they even use them to make a “phone call”.
Their world of constant connection gives our kids nonstop access to their friends and the outside world. Sharing funny memes and chatting in a messenger forum seems harmless enough, but are you 100 per cent aware of what your tween is up to on their device?
Having noticed my son become withdrawn and upset one afternoon led to a swift in-home investigation on what was going on for him. A personal attack in a group message was just the start of something far bigger. It was like watching a script unfold. The plot was to bully and the characters were numerous. It was nasty and mean which created drama and therefore kept the story going. We see it in the playgrounds, on the sports field, but this was happening in our own home – no escape. The intention was to exclude and humiliate, all from the “safety” of the keyboard.
Supervised access to your tween’s device is non- negotiable. Having passwords to their phones and social media sites is encouraged by the Federal Office of the e-Safety Commissioner. Teaching our kids about cyber bullying and learning about it together is imperative. Know that accounts get hacked, that kids share their passwords and make negative comments on posts when imitating others, understanding the different social media platforms, their uses and capabilities and keeping informed about the sites your tween is using is just the beginning. Managing your tween’s access to their device, particularly in the evening and weekends becomes part of the rules and boundaries of home-life.
As our kids move through their teens they will face more and more peer pressure and challenges. Having open communication at home gives them a place to know they can be heard – but often they will prefer talking to their friends about their problems. Giving them access to third-party resources too, such as Head Space and Kids Help Line can provide a safe space for them to speak to someone with experience. This service is available for both you and your child.
Our children’s well-being is our primary role as parents and caregivers. When our kids are under pressure, hurting and in emotional pain – we go there with them. Creating strategies to deal with these issues is imperative for all of us. Remembering to love and support your child first and deal with the anger and frustration in a healthy way not only models great behaviour for our kids but will help you get to the solution.
This is real. This is happening. Our kids are exposed to this regularly, if not daily. They may simply be a bystander witnessing the chats and the bullying but also, as a bystander, witnessing the negative impact this has. This effects all kids at some stage. Even a bystander becomes part of the cycle. Teaching our kids right from wrong helps them to make better decisions. Leaving the chat or showing support for the victim also helps. As parents, we need to stay connected to our kids’ social media life and model behaviour that teaches a healthy balance between technology and the rest of what goes on in life.
For more support on cyber bullying, check out www.esafety.gov.au
HeadSpace // 1800 650 890
Kids Help Line // 1800 55 1800