Have you heard of the term cyberbullying? What comes to your mind? Most likely you were lucky enough not to grow up with it. Many of us were born before the tech craze took over our lives or just on the onset. While technology is amazing and offers tons of opportunities it also has its downsides. Bullying that we know and may have experienced in our youth has taken on a more severe role in our children’s lives. But what can we do? How can we control it?
Were you bullied as a child? I was! I was bullied for about 10 years or so through my elementary, middle school and junior high years. I went to Catholic school and my parents didn’t know the daily torment that I dealt with. I didn’t tell them, I just dealt with it the best I could. I tried ignoring it. I cried a lot, I internalized it. I dealt with the normal stuff many young girls deal with. You know mean girls who ruled the school, cliques that would isolate you from everyone else in the class they deemed worthy of their attention. Of course there was name-calling and gossip and of course, it always came back. Someone was bound to call you up and let you know who said what about you on the way home from school. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with physical bullying but the emotional, psychological bullying I dealt with, setting me up for a lifetime of self-esteem issues.
Now I was growing up during the early onset of the technology craze. When we would come home and hop on AOL to see what was up, instant message friends, listen to music etc. The days of dial-up to broadband and of course that thing we all used to love, Myspace. It was new and we were exploring it.
Those calls of she said this about you, turned into copy and paste conversations sent to your email, so you can see the screen name attached to your classmate who thinks such and such about you. Secrets were exposed, lies were told, that was just the beginning. Cyberbullying was definitely becoming a real danger back then and we see this even more nowadays not only in our youth but with grown adults.
We are currently in a place where kids can go to school for 7-8 hours a day, with people who may or may not like them, respect them, show kindness towards them. They may have to deal with the bullying you and I know, like the laughing behind your back, the name calling etc. But unlike us, it doesn’t stop when they walk out of school. Ding! Their phones, computers, tablets continue their torment.
It is one thing to be in school all day with people and dealing with bullying but then when you turn to leave that environment and are faced with them attacking you online it extends the abuse to a constant stream that you cannot escape. It causes real psychological and emotional pain and issues.
Disconnect to stop cyberbullying
It is easy to say disconnect, block, ignore, report. The internet is big, valuable, addictive, anonymous and uncontrollable in many respects. You can not disconnect your child as much as you may want to. It is the world we live in, it is valuable. There are opportunities for good just as much as there are opportunities for bad. You can set up controls and monitoring to keep them safe and to keep you informed.
Blocking while it is best to do, new usernames pop up, and stuff is still being said, written and shared whether you know about it or not. An embarrassing moment from your day may have stayed in your classroom or your school, but now it can be recorded and shared all over the world. It may never go away!
What is a parent to do?
What is a parent to do? It never ends for kids today and as parents, with our crazy, hectic lives we need to remember what it was like to be a young person struggling to meet the expectations of our parents, teachers, friends, and peers. As parents, we want the best for our children and no matter how great our relationships are with them they aren’t going to share everything with us. Like I didn’t share with my parents. Parents need the tools on how to talk to our kids about cyberbullying, kids need the tools on how to deal with bullying and cyberbullying, the best ways to stop it in its tracks.
Our youngest kids need to learn kindness, and being unkind is not an option. Our youth is so intelligent and have the power to create real change and we should give them the tools to implement that.
Microsoft wants to help!
Microsoft Store will offer parents, educators and teens free in-store workshops and online tools to identify and address cyberbullying. Microsoft Store has partnered with cyberbullying experts to host new, free “Preventing and Combating Cyberbullying” workshops, that help provide guidance and solutions to identify the various forms of cyberbullying while emphasizing actionable advice in a safe and understanding environment, at all Microsoft Stores in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Read here for more information.
Microsoft is also sharing their decision tree which will provide parents and educators with helpful guidance to navigate the complexities of cyberbullying.
The best thing you can do is to educate yourself, keep the lines of communication open, share your experiences with your children and give your child the tools needed to excel and change this new normal of unkindness that is truly unacceptable.
Let us know
What are your experiences with bullying and/or cyberbullying? Have you ever been bullied? Have your kids? How did you deal with it? What do you think of these free workshops to help parents, educators, and teens? Let us know in the comments.
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