Times they are a-changing! If you’d have asked me as recently as 10 years ago if I could see myself making a living online via social media I would have laughed in your face. The explosion of social media has been heady to watch! I can remember when Facebook arrived on scene; I was an Engineering Design Technologist at the time surrounded by my fellow techy “geeks” in a loft-style working area. There were daily convos and debates about how long it would take Facebook to be wiped off of the net. I fell in love with Facebook immediately and crossed my fingers that it would stick around…who knew it would and that it would change our culture.
These days we are almost all connected; 7 degrees of separation has been pulled in even closer. My girls are 9 and 11 now and although many will disagree with my choices…they are on social media. This brings in new concerns, including cyberbullying.
I have educated them about appropriate etiquette, set their security and I review their interactions on a daily basis. I decided to allow them to have social media accounts from an educated place. I am not in any way suggesting that this is appropriate for all children but I do urge parents to educate themselves. I know that my service provider, Telus has free, up-to-date strategies to protect you from cyber-crimes, hackers and online bullying within their TelusWise program.
Even though I have taken the appropriate steps, the fact is that cyber-bullying exists and chances are one day my children will feel the effects of it.
Recently one of my peers, Paula from Thrifty Mommas Tips had a situation where an Instagram account was created in her daughter’s name. This account was used to leave hateful comments on her daughter’s peers which of course created animosity in her daughter’s life. Paula wrote about the situation HERE and the creator of the fictitious account was caught. This was a startling example to me about how children can use social media for online bullying far too easily.
When I read Paula’s situation, I sat my girls down to have a talk about Cyberbullying. Apparently they have witnessed a taste of it while in a group DM conversation on Instagram. We discussed how online behaviours last forever and tactics to deal with situations.
The 2 key points I made were that they should never behave differently online than they would in person and to turn to an adult if and when things seem to be crossing into bullying. It was interesting how my eldest seemed to have an air of superiority about social media until I had the chance to show her how much I actually know. Even though I’m connected daily, these kids pick up on new features/apps much quicker than I do and it’s my job to stay up to date in order to be of help if they need me.
What Happens When Kids Witness Cyberbullying?
A new national study has found youth are motivated to intervene when they witness cyberbullying, but would be more likely to do so with better support from adults. TELUS WISE, in partnership with PREVNet and MediaSmarts, conducted the research to understand the attitudes and experiences of youth who witness cyberbullying and the factors that influence whether or not they intervene.You can see the results in a user-friendly infographic HERE if you’d like.
Key insights that stood out to me include:
- 42 per cent of youth said they have been cyberbullied while 60 per cent said they had witnessed others being cyberbullied
- 71 per cent of those who saw cyberbullying did something to intervene at least once
- 90 per cent of youth said they would intervene if their family member were the target of cyberbullying while 37 per cent would intervene for someone they do not know personally
- 33 per cent of youth said they do not intervene in cyberbullying situations because they do not believe adults give advice that helps
- 43 per cent said they do not intervene because they believe talking to parents and teachers will change nothing
- However, youth’s top-rated intervention strategies involved talking to an adult
Parents Need to Be the Social Media Guru
WOW…this study has again reinforced my belief that we as parents need to be in the know about social media and reflect that to our children. By conveying our authority on the topic we will instill confidence in the kids to respond appropriately if/when cyberbullying happens. Listen…if you were a kid with a parent who didn’t have a clue how to bake, would you ask them for tips on a souflee? Nope I don’t think so!
It’s our responsiblity to get out there and make an effort to understand social media. You don’t need to become a professor but you do need enough knowledge to convince your kids that you have insight enough to have a dialogue about it. They need to have confidence that you will be their star if they need you.
So today I urge you all to talk to your kids about cyberbullying and online safety…you never know when it could happen.