How can you tell if your teen is being cyber bullied? Does your teen become upset during or after using their device? Do they spend a lot of time online? Do they withdraw often or show obvious signs of change in their behaviour? Those could all be signs of cyber bullying.
Feeling powerless to protect your teen when they are being cyber bullied is such an overwhelming feeling. It can send even the most put-together parent into a state of frazzle. The fear of seeing their self esteem and confidence slowly fade is enough to make you want to pack them into your bags and run away with them to somewhere safe.
You’re NOT alone!
It’ll come as no surprise that teens these days are online more often than not. But you might find it shocking to know that 1 in 5 young people are being cyber bullied.
So, what can you do once you notice the signs of cyber bullying?
A lot actually…
This post looks at:
What is cyber bullying?
- The 3 S’s Framework to overcoming cyber bullying.
- The preventative strategies to keep your teen safe.
- What to do (and not do) if they are being cyberbullied.
WHAT IS CYBER BULLYING?
Cyber bullying is a form of bullying using electronic means. Devices such as mobile phones, computers and tablets are used to bully through sms, txt, apps, social media, forums, online chats, and online gaming platforms. It includes sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or nasty content about someone causing embarrassment and/or humiliation.
According to www.dosomething.org, 95% of teens in the U.S access the internet on their mobile devices. 37% of young people (aged 12-17) have been bullied online and 60% of young people have witnessed cyber bullying with most not intervening.
THE 3 S’s FRAMEWORK TO OVERCOMING CYBER BULLYING
The 3 S Framework is a model based around three key areas: Strategies; Strength and Support.
When one of these areas is missing it’s difficult to overcome cyber bullying and move forward from it. So, let’s break it down.
STRATEGIES: These are usually simple ways your teen can protect themselves from bullying, both online and offline. Things such as ignoring, avoiding and fogging.
The idea with ‘fogging’ is to acknowledge what the bully is saying by agreeing with them without getting defensive or upset. By not reacting, the bully is often discouraged.
Online ignoring looks like:
- Not responding to comments made by the bully in group chats, on social media or in online games.
- Blocking the bully so they don’t have to converse with them.
- Reporting the bullying on social media so that something is done about it for you.
Online avoiding looks like:
- When you notice the bully is online, your teen gets offline.
- Leaving group chats when the bully joins.
- Blocking the bully from communicating with them online.
Online fogging looks like:
- Sending a funny (non offensive) GIF as a response to something nasty a bully has said.
STRENGTH: We’re talking about INNER strength here. In order to start rebuilding your teen’s inner strength, they need to start with little steps. Implementing the above strategies takes inner strength.
So, making the decision to leave a group chat if the bully is there, for example, might seem like a small thing for you, but is actually a HUGE step towards your teen regaining some of their power.
Each time these strategies are implemented, it’s like another nail in their armour. They are rebuilding their inner strength, their self esteem, their confidence and their resilience piece by piece.
SUPPORT: Now this is a BIG part of the framework because without the appropriate support at home, the above two steps are hard to achieve.
It goes deeper than just loving your child and wanting them to be safe. It’s about finding the RIGHT support to help them manage this challenge and that means we’re looking at LANGUAGE and BEHAVIOURS.
Language: The power of the language you use at home plays an important role. They see how you handle stress. They watch how you treat other people and observe how you deal with your feelings. They soak in all that information even when you think they aren’t paying attention. Modelling a GROWTH MINDSET will demonstrate the benefits of being positive and not giving up. It builds resilience and allows them to look at challenges as opportunities of growth.
- Introduce them to the two mindsets (Fixed and Growth) and discuss the differences. (There are plenty of articles on this concept online).
- Show your mistakes. Allow them to see it takes practice to change your mindset.
- Add in the word YET. Eg: “I can’t do this”, becomes “I can’t do this YET.”
- Praise their effort over outcome. (Super important)
- Remove labels such as “You’re so talented” and change them to “That was a fantastic effort.”
- Discuss unhelpful self talk compared to positive self talk and teach them to recognise this.
Behaviour: It’s easy to accidentally model unhelpful behaviour. By saying one thing and doing another, it can leave your teen feeling confused. If you find yourself doing any of the following examples, it might be time to reassess that behaviour:
- You spend your evenings watching television, but tell your teen they should read more.
- You argue frequently about custody issues and visitation with your ex, but expect your teen to always get along with others.
- You tell your teen to be kind to others, but you yell at the manager who refuses to refund you your money.
It’s all about accepting responsibility for your own behaviour and actions and pulling yourself up on it. Voicing your mistakes in front of your teen is a great way to demonstrate that you’re learning too and that it’s ok to make mistakes.
PREVENTIVE STRATEGIES TO KEEP YOUR TEEN SAFE FROM BEING CYBER BULLIED
When it comes to time online, it’s important to set up some boundaries, tighten online security and start modelling the behaviours and language above in order to encourage open communication with them. These things are most important:
- Build your relationship with them: Help them to open their social media account and while doing so discuss the importance of being safe online. Go through and show them how to tighten their security on that platform (Ie turn off location settings and discuss why they need to keep their password secret).
- Boundaries: Give them a time limit as to how long they’re allowed online. No devices at the dinner table is another good option. Oh, and bedroom doors always open when using devices.
- Tell stories: To further encourage open communication, it’s always beneficial to tell some of your own stories of conflicts, bullying or anything relative to what your teen could potentially be going through. This helps them to see that you are actually human and can empathise with any challenges they may go through.
- Reacting and Active Listening: When your teen opens up to you about something, it’s important to sit with your feelings rather than express them. Your teen needs no judgement and the last thing they want is for you to overreact and do something that will ‘embarrass’ them. Showing that you’re actively listening with eye contact and body language will help them to feel that they’ve been heard and listened to without being judged.
WHAT TO DO (AND NOT DO) IF YOUR TEEN IS BEING CYBER BULLIED
Firstly, don’t panic or overreact. Remember, it’s a HUGE step for your teen to tell you they’re being bullied. The initial response should be to allow your teen to tell you what’s happening without questions or emotions.
- DO keep evidence of cyberbullying. Ie screenshots and documents.
- DON’T overreact and storm up to the school or the bully, or the bully’s parents and demand answers.
- DO model the appropriate language and behaviours.
- DON’T speak badly about the bully or their family.
- DO empathise and ask what your teen would like you to do about it for them.
- DON’T panic and take their device from them.
- DO make sure their security is tight online and boundaries are set and are consistent.
- DON’T change routines or loosen boundaries because you feel bad that they’re having a tough time.
- DO practice and encourage communication consistently with your teen.
- DON’T ask prying questions.
For more information or support on cyber bullying, check out thesocialchild.com.au. You can also find them on Instagram or facebook @thesocialchild.
This guest post has been provided by Kimberly of TheSocialChild.com.au