The bully problem has escalated for the modern child because cyber technology makes it easy to be mean from behind the screen, emotions are amplified and the power of the communications can overwhelm the bully target. And yet the shame of being bullied can inspire many children to hide their pain from parents. So how can a parent know that their child might be experiencing bully treatment in their cyber social realm?
Fifteen-year-old Julia Shohbozian of Rocklin has overcome the bully climate at her high school by making her world bigger than the small-minded clicks creating a very hostile social climate on campus. For her junior year in high school, she opted to enroll in independent study and has started taking classes at Sierra College and is very happy that she made a decision to expand her world. She also serves on the Placer County Youth Commission that advises the County Board of Supervisors on matters of public policy and youth perspective. “I realized that if my peers didn’t care about me, then why should I care about what they think about me,” she said, “I am not interested in judging other people for entertainment”. Shohbozian offers some guidance for parents below:
- Parents need to understand that the campus environment is vicious; there is a lot of judging and being judged and the social media is used to scroll through pictures making critical and harsh comments about what other people are posting. And they take what is posted as truth. “People believe what they read or see on the internet,” she said, “And pretty soon they are asking the internet rather than talking with one another”.
- Your child may be expressing insecurity, not wanting attention and very quiet. This is your cue to get your child talking. Don’t assume they lack confidence. They may be having a very reasonable reaction to a hostile situation.
- Your child spends more time alone and is not interested in social events. Your child may be a home body and that is okay. According to this teen, “it’s a harsh, vicious environment and it’s all about judging other people. It is like survival of the fittest. So I decided I didn’t want to try to fit in with that”, she said. Get your child thinking for herself about how the peer community behaves and whether that behavior is in alignment with her own values. Sometimes you need to think bigger than the hostility. Your child cannot control what the others are doing and how they are treating one another, but your child can make decisions for herself about how to respond.
My two cents: Be sure to have a NO PRIVACY rule for cyber communications in your home, and monitor your child’s cyber tools – and do it randomly. If there is an issue of bullying, it will show up in the texts and posts and you can guide your child from there. See the link to the Confronting the Bully Guide if you find that your child is in a hostile situation.
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.