Cyberbullying is a top concern for kids because it is easy to be mean from behind the screen. A recent WBGO article reported that a New Jersey judge authorized a school district to sue the parents of kids who were engaged in the bullying of a student whose parents also sued the school district because the harassment went unchecked. According to this story, the school district claimed that the parents had been notified and did nothing to intervene.
As long as children are not properly socialized to use the cyber communications in ways that respect others, civil suits will continue to happen. According to Lisa Ford Berry, founder of BRAVE Society, it is the one way parents can pursue justice when the schools are not able to influence the campus culture and discipline harassment effectively.
“Hate speech is learned behavior,” Ford Berry said, “And parents need to understand that our own biases and hatred can easily become translated as permission to intimidate and harass an individual for being perceived as different. And the consequences for not taking a proactive role steering your child away from allowing or participating in the targeting and attack of an individual can mean civil suits and monetary damages.”
So how can parents train their children to be kind on line and address cyberbullying if it happens to them? How many parents consider that their child might be engaged in cyberbullying, or even consider it a big deal?
Making a peaceful society is family business
Bullying is learned behavior. Children do as we do, and so I have learned that if our own personal strategy is to use intimidation and anger in response to bad customer service or in reaction to the things that family members do that are annoying or disruptive, we in turn are disturbing the peace, not contributing to it.
And so it is helpful to set the standard for conduct at home around the values and characteristics of a trustworthy relationship as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
- Celebrates the success and good fortune of others
- Grace/ first assume good intent/slow to anger
- Holds individuals accountable with a merciful heart
The most strategic thing parents can do to help children avoid getting caught up in the cyberbully climate is to create a culture of transparency regarding cyber communications at home, and get educated about your child’s school bullying policy in the parent handbook.
The top three things parents can do:
- Monitor all cyber communications – especially in teen years. The monitoring should be random and be sure to acknowledge your kids doing things right. Look for gossip, harassment, and inappropriate photos – as these are the things that can lead to a bully situation.
- Know the rights and responsibilities of parents and students that is found in the parent handbook. Every school has one and California Ed code requires the school to post and maintain bully policies and how to file a complaint.
- When you advocate for your child, seek justice for all, including the children who are bullies. The most important thing we can do is to approach a bully situation with a heart strengthened by the peace and confidence of our faith: the victory as already won.
Related: Cyberbullies beware of the law
Event: April 1, Tues. 6:30 p.m. and April 2, Wed. at 10 a.m. St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church is hosting a seminar on “Confronting the bully: How to Protect Your Child”, which features Ford Berry as a speaker. The event is ecumenical, free and open to the public.
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.
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- Email: Jullien@surewest.net