09 Aug Tough Talks #5: Cyberbullying
With schools still closed in many districts around the country, our children are spending more of their time staring at screens than ever before. Although this can be wonderful for expanding their knowledge, it also comes with some serious risks, namely, cyberbullying. The anonymity of the internet allows for so-called “trolls” to verbally abuse and harass today’s teens, while hiding comfortably in the shadows.
Cyberbullies operate through social media accounts such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook; video games through the chat function; or any online chat room or forum that a student may subscribe to or simply visit. There are endless ways students can be cyberbullied, and they are nearly impossible to track. Cyberbullying can take a huge toll on students, creating an unsafe space that can lead to anxiety, depression, a feeling of exclusion, and anger. This can be extremely damaging to their self-esteem, which is a pivotal piece of their overall growth into adulthood.
As parents it can be difficult to know how to talk to our kids about this very real threat. So we’ve collected some helpful approaches you can use, to sit down and talk to your teen about cyberbullying.
Create a Safe Space
One of the most important things you can do is make your home a safe space for your child. They need to feel comfortable communicating with you about anything and everything they are going through. You remember being young and how difficult it is, add cyberbullying to the mix and it can create huge problems. The best thing you can do is simply ask them how they feel and keep in tune with their interests. The more your child feels that you are there to support them no matter what, the more likely they will feel confident in talking to you if anything is bothering them.
Share your Experiences
Do your best to draw from your own experiences and talk to them about how you handled it. This can be extremely helpful not only because they can pick up any tools that worked for you, they will also feel as though they are not the only ones experiencing this. It helps to have an ally and as a parent you can be that for them. The key is to remind them that everyone handles it in their own way, but what is the most important is to never let it get you down.
Don’t Preach, Listen
Sometimes you can get so caught up in trying to solve their problems you forget to listen to what they are really saying. The key is to sit and listen without thinking of a response. We too often find ourselves waiting to respond while someone is talking, instead of really hearing them. With your kids the key is to really let them talk, listen, and soak it all in. That way when you do respond they know you have really heard them. This can make a huge difference in a child that has low self-esteem because they always feel that nobody will listen so they stay quiet instead. It can really improve the relationship you have with them, when they know that you have their backs.
Let Them Vent
Many times we all just need to let it out with no fear of judgement or receiving advice. Be there for when they just want to talk it out. Let them cry, cry with them, let them get angry, be angry with them, let them talk until the sun comes up and be there with hot cocoa the whole time. We forget sometimes how good it feels just to get things off our chests and have someone just be there to let us do it. Since you are their parent, they may feel that you’ll be too judgy or not give them the space to just let loose. Make sure they know that whatever their need, you’re there for them.
Do your best to ask them specific questions about their experiences instead of the classic, “How was your day?” which they will respond to with “good” or “fine” and that will be that. Better to ask about a certain class or lunch time or anything else that shows you are interested in more than just their day. This can make a huge difference because not only will they feel you care, you will also know more about their actual lives. The more you know the more prepared you will be if any problems arise.
Cyberbullying is a crime that is becoming easier and easier to commit. Everyone is online and everyone can comment or post whatever they please. This is why you just have to do your best to keep you kids safe, and make sure they are not being affected by online bullies. Be open to listen to them, make the home a safe haven for them, and simply be there when they need you. These are the best things you can do to help prevent your child from suffering from cyberbullying.
To learn more about how Tilly’s Life Center educates and helps teens navigate their social lives, visit tillyslifecenter.org, and check out what we do.