Back to school is a time of excitement as well as insecurity and uncertainty. And in the cyber social realm, where it is easy to be mean, the cyberbully phenomenon surfaces as a topic of concern and conversation. While bullying is not new, the level of hostility and persistent invasiveness that mobile connectivity inspires in the social networks our children navigate on and off line is unprecedented. And the children need socialization to help them overcome the lack of empathy that can happen from behind the screen. It is a challenge that has inspired legislation across the nation to make cyberbullying cause for disciplinary action in schools.
The documentary Bully (which was showing in select theaters in spring of 2012), is going to premiere as an Independent Lens feature on PBS this fall (Oct. 13). This movie features the reality of how lack of empathy and respect for human dignity experienced by children in the current campus culture is inspired and enabled by cyber tools that isolate individuals and make clandestine hostile and harassing interactions, and a parenting and educator culture indifferent to and/or uniformed about the brutality of the children’s social experiences as bullies, victims and bystanders.
Some of the social challenges our children face include:
• Lack of socialization as cyber citizens. Bullying and civility are learned behavior. And civility doesn’t come easily in a cyber-powered world where emotions are hyped 24X7. Civility is hard-won with a mindset that does not agree with the fear and insecurity of the hostility inspired by bully mentality (which is a powerless, victim state of mind.)
• So much of the communication is clandestine. Texting and social media make it more challenging for parents to witness and provide guidance on the way in which children are handling conflict.
• Easy to be anonymous and mean. From behind the screen, inhibitions are easily loosened. And when you feel anonymous, there is no personal accountability with perceived consequences. So much of the hurt inflicted is not witnessed by the bully or bullies.
So the best way to overcome the bully climate, is to be an advocate for justice for all.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
Tips for parents
• Rights come with responsibility. Parents must know their rights and responsibilities at school so they can be advocates for justice. In order to confront and quell the bully, parents must be in a mindset to advocate justice for all. Responsible adults need to stop excusing bad behavior as a phase, and hold individuals accountable with a merciful heart –not a condemning and critical heart.
• Get a copy of your child’s school parent handbook and read it.
• Know the law and verify that school policy is being enforced.
• Promote a culture of transparency and open communication in the home (subscribe to Banana Moments)
• BRAVE Society website has more tips.
Related: Confronting the bully handout
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
- Banana Moments Foundation YouTube
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
- Like Banana Moments
- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
- Sign up to receive Banana Moments quarterly and monthly updates
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.