Cyberbullying- Could Your Child be a Target? (Guest Post!)

Today’s post comes to you from Laura Pearson. Laura created Edutude – she believes that every student has great potential and aims to help as many as possible unlock it. She also strives to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.

Parents: Say No to Cyberbullying

There are plenty of times when kids should be left on their own to figure life out for themselves. For parents of children who are being cyberbullied, now is not the time for kids to be kids.
With the increasing prevalence of technology playing critical roles in children’s lives, parents must be aware of how to help their child avoid being cyberbullied and, if they are already, how to provide solutions that will cease the torment. This is especially true for parents who have recently moved, their child being rendered the “new kid in town,” which often makes them an easy target for bullies.

Prevention: The First Goal

If possible, parents should aim to prevent any instances of cyberbullying before they arise. The Cyber Bully Hotline suggests several strategies for preventing cyberbullying. While many pertain to instances of cyberbullying that have already occurred, it’s important for parents to be proactive in monitoring their child’s use of technology.

This means consistently enforcing rules about when a child can be on their phone or computer for the use of social media. While cyberbullying can’t be completely stymied through limited usage, the message inherent to these limitations goes deeper. Considering a McAfee study, which found that 87% of students ages 11 to 15 at one school had witnessed cyberbullying, it’s clear that the problem is virtually unavoidable. This means parents must fortify their own child so that they won’t be prone to the often-crippling effects that cyberbullying can have.

Children put far more stock in the perceptions of their peers than adults. For this reason, teaching a child that their worth shouldn’t be determined by the masses but instead by their true friends and family is crucial, and reinforcement of this message is never too frequent. For children who have recently moved, the home may be the only source of familiarity available, making the fostering of positivity all the more critical.

Start at Home

First and foremost, it’s important that home is a safe zone. Particularly when moving to a new city, it’s imperative to take the time to create a stress-free environment. This allows a child to have a place where they feel comfortable and safe, especially during such a rough transition as moving to a new school.

The greatest asset a parent can have in ensuring their child suffers no true harm as the result of cyberbullying is communication. Livestrong.com notes many of the benefits for children who live in a household with strong communication. These benefits include increased self-esteem, an ability to share feelings and emotions maturely, a decrease in “acting out,” and greater listening skills. All of these benefits can help a child develop a strong sense of self and the ability to confidently combat bullies in person, decreasing the chances of being persistently picked on.

A child who personifies a strong sense of self stands a better chance of understanding that bullies are not rational and that their words are not to be assigned any value. This type of child is equipped to succeed in any environment, which is why families who move to a new town must ensure that active communication throughout the move and after relocation is consistently practiced.

If a child does experience cyberbullying, they’re more likely to speak to their parents about the issue if household communication is strong. HASA notes that good communication in the home prepares a child to withstand even greater issues. Still, parents should make it clear that the child is not on their own and that should an issue arise, parents can intervene for the better without embarrassing the child.

When Problems Arise

If a parent finds out their child has experienced a form of cyber-torment, they should first talk to the child. Asking the child to be honest, probe whether the bullying is consistent, or whether it was a one-time instance that has not recurred.

If the problem is persistent, and the bully is known, a call by one or both parents to the offending child’s parent may be the quickest way to nip the problem in the bud. If the bully’s parent is not receptive to counseling and/or disciplining the child, any evidence of cyberbullying should be documented and brought to school administrators’ attention.

As stated, bullying is nearly unavoidable. When a student is different, whether due to their appearance, mannerisms, interests, or their status as new kid on the block, they can be particularly prone to being victimized. But parents can negate the potential damage of cyberbullying by maintaining open lines of communication and an atmosphere of safety and security at home. Not only will this enable a child to shake off the malevolence of self-loathing bullies, but also to feel comfortable disclosing any persistent issues to their parents. A strong mind is a strong child, and molding that strong mind starts at home.

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Welcome to the World of Girl Drama

****Preface- this post is not about bullying, which is a very serious problem many children, tweens, and teens deal with. All references are for what is considered normal tween/teen drama****

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It can start as early as 5th grade for some, as late as 7th for others but it’s usually 6th grade that will have you in tears. Welcome to the world of girl drama and your initiation will most likely be brutal.

Expect to find yourself on both sides of the battlefield, depending upon the day.

One week your daughter comes home in tears because her best friends have decided to ignore her. You are stunned. These are girls you know! How dare they treat your daughter like this? Screw them all! Your heart will break for her. She may not even know what she’s done. You won’t know what to say or how to fix it.

Things eventually blow over. You breathe a sigh of relief. Everything is back to normal!

And then…you get the text. It’s from another mom and she’s informing you that your child is now the one who is ignoring someone or worse (we’ll get to the worse later). You can’t believe it. There must be some misunderstanding. This just happened to her; surely she wouldn’t do the exact same thing to someone else! Again, you’re at a loss.

You knew at some point you’d watch you daughter nurse a broken heart but what you probably didn’t realize was it would be broken by a friend long before boys enter the picture. I know NO ONE who has been immune to preteen/teen girl drama so my advice is to be prepared.

First Thing First…

Never utter the words “my daughter would never…”. This is almost guaranteeing your daughter will do whatever it is that follows your words. Even if your daughter is the very definition of an angel, there is a 99% chance that at some point, she will participate in some not-so-nice, mean girl behavior. Let that sink in. Your child is not perfect and neither are any of her friends.

They are learning and growing, experimenting with limits, testing friendships, and feeling out their power.

Some Things to Expect (or at least be aware of)

On Social Media-

  • She will not be tagged in a photo when all of her friends are/ She will not tag one of her good friends in a photo (this is 100% intentional- do not believe for a moment it was innocently forgotten)
  • She will get a “side tag” by her bestie and a new name will be featured prominently in the middle/She will place tags in ways that highlight levels of friendships depending upon the day/week/month
  • She will get removed from a group text/She will remove others from group texts
  • Her friends will leave a “houseparty” (an app) and start a new one without her/She will do the same
  • She will participate in “games” and quizzes on her FINSTA (fake Instagram account) that will playfully roast others (which could definitely get her into trouble)

IRL (In real life)-

  • She will give the silent treatment/She will receive the silent treatment
  • She will gossip about others/Gossip will be spread about her
  • She will get dumped by a friend/She will dump a friend

To get involved or not?

This is where things get murky. You ALWAYS want to be involved with your daughter by having open conversations. Be there to listen and try your hardest not to tell her what to do but instead strategize many options and let her choose what feels right to her. Not every girl is ready to confront someone and staying silent is not always the best option either.

Should you call the other parent? Many experts say this is the wrong move. Unless we are talking about bullying (more on that below) your best move may be to work with your daughter and not involve the other parent. If you have a close relationship with the other mom, you may want to acknowledge that you realize the girls are having a problem so that she knows you are aware of what’s going on. Whatever you do, do not place blame. When anyone attacks our children, our response is to attack back. Remember there are three sides to every story- your daughter’s, her daughter’s and the truth. 

Another option is to encourage your daughter to turn to a guidance counselor who is a neutral resource who is skilled at handling these things.

And then there are times you must get involved. If your child doesn’t want to go to school because things have gotten so bad, is withdrawn or displaying unusual behaviors, that is a sign to get a professional involved. Stay on top of it and let your mama bear claws out.

Is it Bullying?

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. (https://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html)

So what do you do if your child is the…

“Victim”

First explain the tween/teen friendships are fluid. They will most likely change many times throughout the middle school years. Most importantly, stress that she cannot be a doormat. She can and should ask her “friend” what she’s done wrong and what she can do to make it better. If no reason is given, then encourage her to foster other friendships (cast a wide net). One of two things will happen- it will work itself out or it won’t. If it doesn’t work out, they have most likely grown apart and this happens. Reassure her it will be ok. Girls are looking for friendships that “fit” and not every friendship does. This is much harder if it’s a group as opposed to one girl but the advise remains the same- don’t beg.

“Perpetrator”

Try to get her to name the feelings she has toward the other girl. She’s got to name it to tame it! Is she annoyed, jealous, or hurt? There are usually some strong emotions behind a girl who is acting aggressive or cold to another girl. Ask, what incident preceded this issue? Work to get her to understand the why. Then ask her how she thinks she can handle this…can they talk it out? Does she need space and if so has she told the other girl? Is an apology in order? If so, strongly suggest doing so in person or on a phone call- not as a text.

Most girls will be the victim and perpetrator at some point. Acknowledge this and discuss the reasons why and what types of things shift the power between friends.

Girls Against Girls

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I’ve done a ton of research on this topic and listed below are some of the resources I found the most helpful. If you are in the thick of it, I highly suggest reading the book Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton WITH your daughter. We were laughing out loud because she described an exact situation that was happening with my daughter’s friends. It just showed us how normal it is if it’s described to a T in a book! I’ve broken down the book below. How many have you or your daughter experienced?

Mean Girl Methods-

  • Silent Treatment
  • Gossiping
  • Boyfriend Stealing
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Cyber Abuse
  • Dumping

Strategies

  • Keep your cool
  • Confront her
  • Forgive
  • Cut ties
  • Get it out of your system
  • Break out

Finally, and most importantly in my opinion, is the section called “Stopping the Cycle”

  • Understand why you are pissed
  • Learn how to communicate
  • Learn how to admit fault
  • Stop the buzz
  • Don’t plot out revenge
  • Get familiar with your excuses

These years aren’t easy. Take a deep breath and love your girl where ever she happens to be at the moment. Be supportive and a good listener and empower her to brainstorm strategies to tackle mean girl behavior, in others and herself. When she’s wrong, tell her, but use it as a teaching opportunity. Work to be a positive girl role model yourself- don’t gossip and look for ways to support the other women in your life. It all starts in our homes- we will never be able to control how others behave but we always have the power to control ourselves.

Helpful Resources:

Plan A Girls’ Night Out

Time with your friends to unwind, share, and laugh is necessary for you to stay connected to those you care for. Unfortunately, due to hectic schedules both personally and professionally, we often put this on the back burner. I’m ashamed to admit that it had been five months since my last Girls’ Night so this past Saturday was long overdue.

After an unexpected delay due to train issues, one of my dearest friends and I arrived at DBGB a few minutes after our reservation. DBGB is one of Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants and is described on their website as “where the French brasserie meets the American tavern.” Here you can find 14 different types of sausages, more pork than you can imagine, burgers, and lots of seasonal dishes. This trendy yet casual downtown spot where most of the staff is wearing chucks, exudes cool so expect a full house on most nights.

As I mentioned, we were a few minutes late but it wasn’t a problem at all and the host was actually very pleasant, which can be a rarity in hot NYC restaurants. We made our way to the bar for a cocktail before sitting and again were greeted with smiles from friendly bartenders (where did they find these people?!) They do not carry my cocktail of choice these days, vanilla flavored vodka, but do offer a house-infused vodka which, with a splash of Sprite, made for quite a refreshing beverage. We ordered the Chop-Chop Salad and the Asparagus and Fried Egg to share for our appetizers and both were delish (the asparagus is a can’t miss). For my entrée, I got the Amish Chicken and she got the mussels in a wine sauce, light and perfect for summer. I know ordering chicken when their specialty is sausage and pork isn’t the bravest move, but I’m working, albeit slowly, on changing my boring palette to include more than poultry and pasta.

After dinner we headed over to Chelsea to check out Avenue, a restaurant/lounge/night club. We arrived around midnight and there was no one there. I’m talking ghost town status. Our waitress assured us that it would get busy and eventually it did but not until close to two. Geeze! Maybe I’m getting old-er (not old, never say old!) but two seems kinda late to get the party started, no? The decor was very pretty and the music was ok- a bit too heavy on the hip hop and not enough dance music for our tastes. Plan on getting a table or not having a lot of room to dance (see above photo for an idea of the layout). The crowd was beautiful and trendy and I enjoyed taking in the NYC fashion scene (dress shorts with heels= extremely popular choice).

All in all, my friend and I had a great night catching up and enjoying the city and the warm weather. If you only do one thing this week, plan a Girls’ Night with one of your closest friends. Find the time, make the time, get something on the calendar. Nourish your friendships and in return your friendships will nourish your soul.

xo,

Tanya