It feels bad enough being teased on the playground, let alone when a schoolmate posts a hurtful comment that can be seen by an audience of hundreds.
Cyberbullying is a growing issue that we need to better understand as parents so that we can teach our children to be a voice for positive change and to rise above a culture of online harassment.
To help the cause, TELUS has created a comprehensive website to help students, parents and teachers to overcome cyberbullying. The site’s resources help parents and their children identify cyberbullying (for instance, when a joke goes too far) and learn how to make a difference when they are a target, witness, or bystander. Quizzes, guides and tailored advice make the experience relatable and engaging for children of any age.
Check out these nine pieces of advice for teaching your children how to safely navigate the online environment.
For parents of children under 10:
Kids are growing up so fast these days, and we need to educate them on social issues even sooner than ever before. As children and youth become more tech savvy, they have to navigate everything that comes with communicating online, which can often include cyberbullying.
- Provide context. Saying something online is the same as communicating the message in-person with your friends. Explain to your kids that if something doesn’t seem like a nice thing you would want to say to your friend in person, you shouldn’t say it online either.
- Empower them. Let your children know it’s okay to speak up when they see, hear, or read something that doesn’t feel right.
- Draw a line. Sometimes when people say hurtful things, they will often pretend it’s a joke to downplay it. If your child thinks that someone’s words are hurtful to themselves or a friend, let them know that it’s okay to talk to you about what was posted.
For parents of teenagers:
Remember that the teenage years are a difficult transitional period in life, compounded with the pressure to excel academically, attend extracurriculars, maintain volunteering hours, and still enjoy being a carefree adolescent!
- Use available resources. It can be hard to distinguish if your teen is experiencing online bullying. To empower parents, TELUS has compiled research and sound advice in their online parent's guide. The guide offers insight into the signs to look for in a child and practical advice on how you can help.
- Teach them the rules. Though some issues may seem easy to resolve as an adult, keep in mind that this is new social territory that your child is just beginning to learn how to manage. Providing your teen with the tools of how to manage and resolve online social interactions will be the same tools that they use to carry them into adulthood.
- Master their language. Refer to this slang glossary if you need help deciphering kids’ online messages. Read up on the social apps they may be using and take advantage of in-app functionality to help ensure they have a safe experience.
For all parents:
It’s tough to identify cyberbullying because it exists in an environment you may not have full access to. No matter what age your child is, you’ll need to read their cues when discerning whether they’re engaging safely with others online.
- Keep conversation open. Parents can make a point of engaging with their children in a discussion about all facets of their academic career, including studies, team sports, interests, friends and what topics they interacted with online that day. Promote an open dialogue with your child to ensure they maintain a healthy relationship with themselves, their family and friends.
- Look out for other signs. Keep in mind that any form of bullying can be symptomatic of other issues, which can mean that if your child engages in bullying, they may be asking for help in other areas of their life.
- Give, don’t take. One of the biggest reasons kids are hesitant to talk to their parents about what they’re experiencing online is fear their parents will take their device away or cut off their access. This solution closes off dialogue and fails to equip your children with the skills they need to overcome challenging online situations. Instead of reacting like this, explore ways to support your child, such as by helping them report the incident.
If everyone works together to facilitate an open dialogue about mindful social media practices, our children can feel safe, continue to grow meaningful friendships and be empowered to rise above cyberbullying