The digital world has ushered in new opportunities for networking and socialising. Our kids are hopping onto the social media bandwagon and now use online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram to connect and interact with friends.
But the online world has also brought with it new dangers and pitfalls. Without seeing the other party face-to-face, it has become easier to type a mean or nasty comment and click “send”. Some do it intentionally and persistently with the aim of hurting or isolating other people. This is known as cyberbullying.
Here are some ways we can educate our kids about the dangers of cyberbullying.
1. Be aware of their online activities
Be in the know about the various platforms that your kids are using. Talk to them about it and seek to understand their perspectives about why they are using certain apps and how they function.
This paves the way for us to engage our kids in regular conversations about such social media tools. Be sure to touch on the pros and cons of using such apps, and how to keep safe and healthy boundaries while online.
2. Watch out for signs of bullying
Being harassed or isolated by peers can lead to a reduction in self-esteem and feelings of hurt and rejection. It may even affect your kids’ health, eating and sleeping patterns and lead to more serious issues such as depression and self-harm.
It’s important that we watch out for changes in our kids’ behavior and be alert to the danger signs.
3. Be available and supportive
Let your kids know that they can talk to you about any friend or online behaviour that may be bothering them. When they do open up to you, don’t be too quick to react or worse, over-react.
Know that their emotional pain is very real, so instead of asking them to ignore the hurt feelings, encourage them to talk about those feelings and get them out in the open.
Work with them to brainstorm ways to cope or handle the bullying and encourage them to make good and kind choices.
4. Seek help
If your children are being bullied, take the time to examine the situation. One way is to look through the comments or images that have been posted online, making sure to take screenshots, so that you can show them to the teacher if the bully is a peer at school.
Working with the teacher and school to resolve the situation, rather than approaching the parent of the bully, will also help to prevent the situation from escalating or getting overly confrontational.
5. Model pro-social online behaviour
Our children look to us to guide them on how to interact with people – both online and off.
As often as we can, emphasise kindness and model empathetic behaviour. Call out unkind and mean words or actions if and when they use these in daily life. Explain that kind words are even more important online, as non-verbal aspects of communication such as facial expression, tone and body language are missing online.
At the end of the day, digital and social media platforms are designed to connect people and open the lines of communication. However, when misused, they can create isolation, distortion of reality and result in real people getting hurt.
As parents, we can empower our children to deal with cyberbullying. Let’s continue to be involved in their online activities and keep the conversation open.
Written by June Yong
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