At the beginning of the year, United Health Care issued a feature about a Pew report survey finding that parents across socio-economic boundaries rank bullying as the number one concern for their children.
Mobile connectivity inspires a power crisis for youth and parents as children at early ages have access to clandestine communication with peers and people and information around the globe. It is so easy to keep secrets which harbor risk, and our parenting and education culture has had to learn how to socialize youth to be civil in cyber-powered communities where emotions are high. In their peer groups wherein teens do not distinguish between virtual and physical realities, the danger for youth is that their peer group more easily becomes a single point of reference for life: as the teens are asking their friends, “am I pretty enough?”, “am I acceptable?”, “do you value me?”. And we know that in a peer-centric world view without wisdom, children are more vulnerable to believing things that are not true with devastating consequences.
This is the cyberbully problem that happens when youth are not educated and confident about dealing with the hostile insecurity of others. And it is the number one concern of parents because unchecked it can severely impact their child’s quality of life. Below are some of the examples of the lies that youth may embrace as truth in their cyber-powered communities:
- I am not loveable unless I send a nude photo of myself.
- The number of “likes” I get in reply to my post validates me.
- I am invisible without a profile on Instagram, Twitter or SnapChat.
- I cannot fit in or stop the pain without drugs and alcohol.
- The voice behind the stranger’s photo cares about me
- Alcohol is safe as long as you don’t get behind the wheel.
- I have no future, no hope. There is no point in going on living.
Tips for confronting the bully on and off line
Parents are divinely equipped to educate children about their power to confront cruelty, and how to manage it as individuals and in community. Bullying is a form of insecurity that happens when you are feeling powerless and try to reclaim our power by dominating others. As the primary teachers for life, parents have the authority to govern the home so as to educate youth about where their personal power comes from, as 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us we have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and of a sound mind. And so teaching our children to become thought leaders defending the dignity of every human being is the primary role of the parent. To that end, below are some considerations in guiding your child to be a cyber citizen who can be resilient to the cyberbully influence.
- Distinguish a lie from the truth. To help your child recognize a lie when they encounter it in the flesh or in the social network, explain that in general a lie will disturb your peace, while the truth tends to bring about peace and empower others. Encourage your child to talk with you if they are dealing with thoughts and experiences that are disturbing that relentlessly persist. If your child has thoughts about him or herself that are disparaging, encourage them to write down those thoughts and then write down the opposite. The negative thought is the lie; the positive thought is what God says about your child. Encourage your child to think about the positive thoughts. (Romans 12:2/Jeremiah 29:11).
- Identify and respond to an attack. As soon as your child witnesses a dynamic in their peer community that is disrespectful to another person, that is a “put down” repeatedly communicated and many peers are piling on, adding to the harassment of an individual – this is an attack. Usually attacks happen to individuals who are perceived as more vulnerable, and there is a perceived power difference between the attackers and the target. Sometimes an attack is a form of retaliation by the attacker in response to a perceived power difference or abuse by the target. People who bully will justify their actions, because they are feeling powerless or hurt. In any event, attacks are a signal that an intervention is required. If your child is experiencing an attack (which with cyber communications is ongoing and harassing) or witnessing one, it will be important to document it and bring it to the attention of the appropriate individuals.
For guidance on engaging individuals in a cyberbully problem, go to BRAVE Society Parent Resources, to access guidelines for working with school officials and law enforcement.
When we and our children understand that bullying is insecurity expressing itself, we can then realize that everyone involved needs help. Bullying is a call to action. There needs to be a hopeful, confident response to do good. (Romans 12:21).
ABOUT: Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
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 (videos)
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
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- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
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- Email: Joanna at bananamoments.com
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.