Bullying is a top cyber safety concern for youth for two main reasons. First we do not have a history of socializing kids with the mobile devices which make it easy to be cruel in so many powerful and sinister ways. And secondly, my observation over the past decade is that we have lost the art of teaching good citizenship at home.
Mobile connectivity and impulsivity
As technology use consumes more of our attention, it is increasingly difficult to prepare children to experience self-respect as a measure of how you treat others rather than based upon how others treat you. Parents and children are easily distracted by the devices which beckon us to check the melodious tones of incoming posts, notifications and texts. And younger children can become addicted to the interactive “tap and click” experience with the tablets. All of which this is to say that in a very subtle way, we usher in a steady stream disturbing the peace in the home.
So without mental discipline, the news feeds and apps constantly stimulate and agitate our hearts and minds. Communing as a family becomes more difficult as the effortless illusion of being in control.
Good citizenship is empowerment
We live in a world wherein the “consumer rules” in the network culture, and we are all conditioned to be power consumers in a hyper-connected world that caters everything to our preferences. So right off the bat, self-centeredness is encouraged. Good citizenship can seem almost irrelevant because of this conditioning, and yet it is more important than ever.
Compounding this power-consumer culture, I have observed a parenting trend to make excuses for the poor choices and/or conduct of our own children. We are living in an “achiever parent culture” that seeks to set children up for success at all costs – even if it means they do not learn the lesson about personal accountability for their own thoughts and actions so they can learn to become trustworthy friends and classmates. And so it can be difficult to accept that your child might be the bully as well as the victim. As the cyber technology inspires insecurity and impulsivity, children are navigating an increasingly hostile environment that can only be tamed when every individual is encouraged to be accountable for their own thoughts and actions.
Tips for teaching personal responsibility in relationships
Below are some tips to help you reinforce the characteristics of a trusted friend and classmate, on and off-line.
Assume that your child is able. Start with the premise “there but for the grace of God go I,” and assume that under the right circumstances and the wrong thinking, your child is capable of cruelty as well as kindness. The sooner your child learns to accept responsibility for their own thoughts and actions as their personal center of power, the less likely he or she will show up in their cyber-powered peer communities as a victim or a bully. James 1:5 tells us that God grants wisdom to those who lack it and seek it. So encourage your child to ask for wisdom about how to respond when witnessing or experiencing an attack on another individual.
Set expectations around who your child is, not what he or she does
Today there is a lot of pressure on performance. Performing in academics, sports and in other activities. And when the signal the child receives is “you are as good as your last performance,” they can loose sight of what matters more: who they are.
When communicating your personal expectations for your child in school and in life (GPA, career goals, dating, etc.), focus on the core values that reflect the character of a trustworthy parent, child, friend, spouse, teacher, classmate, boss, co-work and benevolent Deity. These are the qualities of the character described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, as listed below:
- Champion for good
Monitor cyber communications
Explain to your child that there is no privacy in the cyber realm, and that your job as their guardian and teacher for life is to help them learn how not to give up their power to the device or the bully. Look for how your child expresses her thoughts and actions in her posts and texts. And if the communications do not conform to your family values, ask her to think about the things that are being said in her cyber social realm with that in mind. And then encourage your child to think about how she can respond differently in the future, and apologize for any hurtful things that may have been said, or equally important, allowed to be said without defending the person under attack.
IMPORTANT: If your child is dealing with a cyberbully assault that will not be quelled with civil dialogue, check out the steps offered by BRAVE Society to guide parents through the process of seeking resolution and justice for everyone involved.
Here is a handout from a bully prevention seminar: Confronting the bully.
ABOUT: Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God grants every human being intelligence and free will and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
- Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM (videos)
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
- Like Banana Moments
- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
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- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.