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5 things parents should know about cyber bullying

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

5 things parents should know about cyber bullying

During a recent interview with anti-bullying and mental health and wellness activist Carol Todd, I asked her to share some key points parents should keep top of mind when it comes to cyber bullying. Todd, whose daughter Amanda took her own life after being cyber bullied is also a former Canadian Living Me to We award winner for her work. Cyber bullying 1. Cyber bullying is on the rise "Statistics show that face-to-face bullying has dropped but cyber bullying has increased -- the fast-paced changes in technology have greatly contributed to this," Todd says. "Kids and adults aren't getting that they shouldn't be posting things online or saying things that are harmful. It's being done under the veil of anonymity and under the veil of 'I was only joking. I didn't mean it.'" Todd stresses that as adults, we can block out these negatives but younger people aren't mentally equipped -- the feelings spread and escalate. "Visually, things hurt more than if they're just heard," she says. "If there are 100 comments and 99 of them say you're pretty but one says you're ugly, which one will you focus on?" 2. Bullying does not lead to suicide "What we're seeing a lot in the media these days is that every time a young person takes their life, it's somehow related back to bullying or cyber bullying," Todd says. "However, it's important to remember that bullying does not cause suicide -- it causes the mental health distresses, which, when left untreated, will lead to a low where a person will consider taking his or her own life." 3. Be aware of the power of technology If you're going to give your child a device, make sure you know how they're using it. Todd suggests setting immediate ground rules and ramifications for misuse. "As soon as that particular piece of technology is in your child's hands, you set the rules," she says. "Whether you have access to their social media accounts and passwords, or simply say they're not allowed to go on certain sites, make sure you're clear and don't waver." She also reiterates the importance of educating kids about public and private presences online. "We have to teach our kids that they don't just get a clean slate once they turn 18. If they're not careful, what they put on the Internet at 13 can most certainly show up at different points in their lives and it can lead to terrible consequences." 4. Keep the lines of communication open It's important as parents to remain open-minded and approachable, especially when focusing on the issue of bullying. "When parents have a good relationship with their kids and they have that 'uh-oh' moment, parents cannot get angry," Todd stresses. "They have to remain non-judgmental and accessible. Whether their child is the bully or the victim, it's important for parents to look at the full picture before they reach out and help." "Kids need to realize that they can't solve their own problems and that the adults in their lives are there to help. Peer to peer doesn't always work and can sometimes make things worse." Todd also suggests that parents play dumb when it comes to certain apps that kids use on a daily basis. "Say things like, 'I heard about this app... have you heard about it? What does it do?' You'll be surprised by how much information your kids will share with you." 5. Learn to live without technology -- even if momentarily "I tell people to take their kids out for ice cream and to go for longer than five minutes," she says. "And leave the devices at home so that you're able to have an actual chat. Ask open-ended questions like, 'What's going on with so-and-so?' or 'Tell me about so-and-so class.'" Todd reiterates the important message that kids learn from us as adults. And if we don't take a break from technology from time to time, then they can easily argue that they shouldn't either. "If you don't put your phone down or leave it at home once in a while, then what's the message you're sending your child?" she asks. October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Learn about the Light Up Purple movement led by Carol Todd and the Amanda Todd Legacy. Plus, learn how to help your child deal with a bully. Image courtesy of Jakub Krechowicz/Stockvault
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5 things parents should know about cyber bullying

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