Cyberbullying is an age-old issue, bullying, which is intensified with mass communication power. Insecurity expressing itself with intensity that previous generations have not known, cyberbullying amplifies the perception of power disparity between individuals and groups to disturb the peace in ways that can convince youth who are attacking that there is no limit to harassment, and by the same token for individuals under attack to believe there is no hope for a future. It is a disconnect from truth and powerlessness with intensity that can break a person, which is why I understand youth suicide has become a more common headline than in generations past.
Cyberbullying typically involves a steady stream of texts and posts (for days, weeks, months) calling their target names to degrade and dehumanize and includes statements like “you should die,” “no one likes you,” and “go kill yourself”. This kind of talk can easily devolve into more hate speech and it will be important to make sure that the people making the hateful statements get help too. The kindest and most righteous thing you can do is bring the assault to the attention of people who are in a position to help the bully stop and get counseling. Most school districts have bully prevention policies, which you should familiarize yourself with in order to bring the problem to the attention of school officials who can safely engage the parents of the kids engaging in cyberbully behavior.
For more information about engaging school administration in bully prevention and intervention, go to BRAVE Society.
Cyber-safe tips for teaching your child to respond to cyber-cruelty
To teach your child how to respond to cruelty, whether it is an attack on them or on another person, children need to be trained to realize that they are responsible for their own thoughts and actions no matter what is happening.
Establish that the truth is not represented by the cruelty of others. Establish that just because something disturbing, frightening and bad is happening does not make it true. Help your child declare that their truth, which is managed in their own mind, will not be defined by the cruelty of others. In this way, children need to learn that a lie can become a real experience murdering the truth, only if you allow it in your own mind. Teach your child to think about the truth as being the opposite of what is disturbing their peace. This can be expressed as God’s promises for the faithful.
Choose not to agree with the bully. When your child is experiencing an assault, the most important thing you can do is coach her to consider that in order for the bully to succeed is that you have to agree with them. Below is a photo that makes me think of how Jesus might reply to a cyberbully: Encourage your child to meditate on this thought.
Open dialogue about things that disturb your peace & inspire shame. As you reassure your child that he or she has the power not to allow someone else’s thoughts and actions to define them, then encourage your child to talk to you if they are experiencing or witnessing such hate speech and/or harassment. Capture the things they are saying via texts, tweets or posts so you have a record. Do not respond to them. The kindest thing you can do for a cyberbully is to bring their attacks into the light, in front of others who are in a position to guide them, be they parents, counselors, faith leaders or teachers. When your aim is to give the bully an opportunity to choose to change their menacing ways, that is justice.
Nix gossip in the bud. Engaging in or allowing gossip is the first step towards agreeing with others that it is okay to be mean to another person. Explain to your child that if there is conversation happening in posts or texts that are unkind or sharing personal information about an individual to make them look bad, then ask your child to imagine that they were the subject of the conversation. Then encourage your child to think about how to redirect and discourage gossip. One way is to find something admirable that you can say about the person targeted, and then change the subject. A good rule of thumb is to make it a personal policy that if the person being talked about in a negative way is not there to defend herself, then it is necessary to defend that person. And if that person is clearly not able to defend herself (lacking confidence), then it is necessary to defend that person.
There will be a cyberbully prevention/intervention training at St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church Tues September 15, 6:30pm (in Granite Bay), and an encore on Wed. September 16, 10am.
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.