What is IT? – IT is Bullying! What Can I Do About IT? (PART II)

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In Part I of this series I shared an article that defined what Bullying is and what some of the sign are that your child might be being bullied.   As parents, most of you have probably had some exposure to bullying, whether it has been from personal experience, a family member, or even had a child been bullied.  If, not, there has been media coverage of the bullying-type behaviors that have increased steadily of the past decade.
I promised to share 5 Ways to Stop Cyber Bullying and How to Handle Bullying in General.  Well, I realized I couldn’t stop at just 5 Ways…so here are excerpts from some of my favorite articles and some of my own thoughts:

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Tips for Parents and Teachers to Stop Cyberbullying

Authors: Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
(helpguide.org last updated: February 2014)
No matter how much pain it causes, kids are often reluctant to tell parents or teachers about cyberbullying because they fear that doing so may result in losing their computer or cell phone privileges.  While parents should always monitor a child’s use of technology, it’s important not to threaten to withdraw access or otherwise punish a child who’s been the victim of cyberbullying.
Prevent cyberbullying before it starts
 To stay safe with technology, teach your kids to:
·    Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
·    Tell their friends to stop cyberbullying.
·    Block communication with cyberbullies; delete messages without      reading them.
·    Never post or share their personal information online (including full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or Social Security number) or their friends’ personal information.
·    Never share their Internet passwords with anyone, except you.
·    Talk to you about their life online.
·    Not put anything online that they wouldn’t want their classmates to see, even in email.
·    Not send messages when they’re angry or upset.
·    Always be as polite online as they are in person.
Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Monitor your child’s technology use

Regardless of how much your child resents it, you can only protect him or her by monitoring what they do online.
·    Keep the computer in a busy area of your house so you can easily monitor its use, rather than allowing your child use a laptop or tablet in his or her bedroom, for example.
·    Limit data access to your child’s smart phone if he or she uses it to surf the web.  Some wireless providers allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours.
·    Set up filters on your child’s computer.  Tracking software can block inappropriate web content and help you check up on your child’s online activities.
·    Insist on knowing your child’s passwords and learn the common acronyms kids use online and in text messages.
·    Know who your child communicates with online.  Go over your child’s address book and instant messenger “buddy list” with them.  Ask who each person is and how your child knows them.
·    Encourage your child to tell you or another trusted adult if they receive threatening messages or are otherwise targeted by cyberbullies, while reassuring them that doing so will not result in their loss of computer or cell phone privileges.

Deal with incidents of cyberbullying

·    Don’t reply to any incidents of cyberbullying but do save and document the threats (harassing messages, sexually explicit pictures, or threatening texts, for example) and report them to the police.  Seek appropriate legal advice.
·    Report incidents of cyberbullying to the ISP, the cell phone company, and to any web site used in the cyberbullying.
·    Block the cyberbully’s email address or cell phone number, or change your child’s email address or phone number.
·    If you are able to identify the cyberbully, you could contact his or her parents or notify your child’s school if the cyberbully is also a student there.  Many schools have established protocols for handling cyberbullying but check with your child first as he or she may prefer to resolve the problem privately.

If Your Child is a Cyberbully

It can be difficult for any parent to learn that their child is bullying others but it’s important to take steps to end the negative behavior before it has serious and long-term consequences for your child.
If your child has responded to being cyberbullied by employing their own cyberbullying tactics, you can help your child find better ways to deal with the problem.  If your child has trouble managing strong emotions such as anger, hurt, or frustration, talk to a therapist about helping your child learn to cope with these feelings in a healthy way.
Bullying is often a learned behavior
Some cyberbullies can learn aggressive behavior from their experiences at home, so it’s important to set a good example with your own Internet and messaging habits.  As a parent, you may be setting a bad example for your kids by spanking or otherwise striking them, verbally or physically abusing your spouse, or by displaying bullying behavior such as:
·    Sending or forwarding abusive emails or text messages that target coworkers or acquaintances.
·    Communicating with people online in ways that you wouldn’t do face-to-face.
·    Abusing your child’s sports coach, umpires and referees, or members of the opposing team.
·    Swearing at other drivers on the road.
·    Humiliating a waitress, shop assistant, or cab driver who makes a mistake.
·    Talking negatively or writing abuse messages about other students, parents, or teachers so that your child thinks it’s acceptable to use verbal abuse or cyberbullying to intimidate others.
(Keri’s Note: These are behaviors that our kids often observe that; when we are angry, rarely realize we are being observed and modeling “acceptable” behavior for our children.  The “do as I say, not as I do” scenario.)

Tips for parents dealing with a cyberbullying child

·    Educate your child about cyberbullying.  Your child may not understand how hurtful and damaging their behavior can be.  Foster empathy and awareness by encouraging your child to look at their actions from the victim’s perspective.o    (Keri’s Note: Empathy is THE #1 most powerful tool for helping a child change bullying behavior.  Here are the steps I take to invite a child to see things differently:

  • I ask a child to imagine what it might feel like to if this was happening to their best friend?
  • How would they feel knowing it was happening to their friend?
  • Would it be okay for someone to try to make their friend to feel that way for any reason?
  • What do they feel they would want to do if it really was their friend?
 o    This series of questions usually invites a change of heart and mind because it indirectly addresses the target of their bullying.)·    Inform your child that cyberbullying can have very serious legal consequences.
·    Manage stress.  Teach your child positive ways to manage stress.  Your child’s cyberbullying may be an attempt at relieving stress.  Or your own stress, anxiety, or worry may be creating an unstable home environment.  Exercise, spending time in nature, or playing with a pet is great ways for both kids and adults to let off steam and relieve stress.
·    Set limits with technology.  Let your child know you’ll be monitoring his or her use of computers, tablets, smartphones, email, and text messaging.  If necessary, remove access to technology until behavior improves.

(Keri’s Note:  With regard to “remove access to technology” – This may sound contradictory to what was mentioned about, however, the important words here are “If necessary” – start with setting limits and move on to removal only if it is necessary.)
·    Establish consistent rules of behavior.  Make sure your child understands your rules and the punishment (Keri’s Note: Consequences, please) for breaking them.  Children may not think they need discipline, but a lack of boundaries sends a signal that the child is unworthy of the parents’ time, care, and attention.

Cyberbullying and the law

·    Certain types of cyberbullying may violate school codes or breach anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws.

·    While laws differ around the world, in the U.S., cyberbullying can warrant a misdemeanor cyber-harassment charge or result in a charge of juvenile delinquency.  It typically can result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a “terms of service” violation.

·    In some cases, if hacking or password and identity theft is involved, it can be considered a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.

·    In many states “sexting” or forwarding a “sext” (sexual messages) is punishable as distributing or possessing child pornography, and requires even minors to be registered as sex offenders.

·    If an adult becomes involved, cyberbullying becomes cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, serious criminal offenses.

 What can I Help my Child Do If They are Being Bullied?

1.    Teach them a “nonsensical” response to any name calling that may occur:
BULLY: “You are such a jerk!”
CHILD:   (As they take a confident stance [not arrogant] and prepare to walk toward and past the Bully [not too close]) say in a calm voice: “Well, watermelons fly….”
2.    As you practice this role-playing with your child think of 2-3 different nonsensical statements that he/she can make that will “roll right of their tongue.”  The more prepared they are the more effective the tool is in “discombobulating” the Bully’s brain.3.    The Bully’s brain is in “fight” mode and when a nonsensical statement is given it must switch to “thinking” mode to process the statement; during the switching time the child is able to remove them self from a potentially harmful situation.

4.    If they do end up getting physically hurt at some point, teach a child who they can confide in at school, church, neighbors, another trusted adult at home.

5.    Let them know that they will not be in trouble or punished for reporting the Bully and that the information will be kept as confidential as possible for their safety AND that you will work together to keep other kids safe by reporting the information to the appropriate authority, depending on the severity of the Bullying.  (Neighbor, friend, teacher, principal, police).

6.    Document physical Bullying with pictures and have your child receive medical treatment, if necessary, as soon as possible.

7.    Please teach your children to be an “observant stand-upper!”  Have them pay attention to what is going on and have the courage to “STAND UP” to Bullying behavior wherever they see it happening.  Role-play with them so they have the words they need to use when the time comes:

 “I don’t think that’s a nice thing to say!  Please stop it!”  “Don’t hit her!”  “Please don’t use those words, I don’t like them.”  “  I can see that you are hurting him.  Stop!”

Hopefully, you will find some helpful information from our combined minds and experience!
Keep peace in your hearts and have a great week!
Keri