Social media, cyber bullying and our kids: Are you aware enough?

Social media, cyber bullying and our kids: Are you aware enough?

I took a long time to write this post.

Every single time my fingers hovered over the keys, my mind would draw them back and I would think once again of the fate of Breck Bednar. The night that I read the article, I couldn’t sleep. My heart would twist and my stomach would churn when I pictured the victim and the helplessness of the mother who saw what was happening, did everything in her power to stop it and still couldn’t save her child from an online predator. Cyber bullying is real and it’s happening more often than we care to admit.

It’s ridiculous the way we have access to everything today at the swipe of a finger. I say ridiculous because although it’s a life-saving concept for someone who works from home, it keeps me ever mindful of the many dangers that abound in this world today, especially when I think of what my daughter or any child can be exposed to at the click of a button.As I see it, there are two issues I have to face as a parent here: Addiction to social media and cyber bullying that can come as a result of it. Gy is a quiet child and was recently the victim of some bullying at school. Now as a parent, this made my blood boil but I refrained from interfering in the situation, hoping she would learn to stand up for herself. To her credit, she did and I am glad that she is learning that life isn’t always going to be a bed of roses.

Social media is addictive, no question about it. Grown adults and bloggers are drawn into its seductive coil so it’s natural that children are likely to be even easier bait.

What’s even worse is the fact that cyber bullying can demoralise the best of us, when we are attacked either directly or otherwise through vengeful posts and snide comments. While an adult can read up on positive reinforcement and learn to brush these things off, children aren’t that emotionally mature. They need guidance, counsel and a whole lot of support when they face cyber bullying or any sort of action that causes them to question their self-worth.

Where do we begin though? Perhaps these can help you.

[bctt tweet=”Social Media & Cyberbullying: 3 Ways to Keep #Kids Safe Online. #Parenting ” username=”shyvish”]
Social Media Cyber bullying: It's happening, it's real and you can't turn away from the reality. Here are 3 ways to keep your kids safe online. Read now and stay updated on what matters. #Parenting #Kids #CyberSafety #Tips

 

1. Limiting gadgets for children under the age of 13:

I know of kids who use their parents’ phones and their Whatsapp accounts to create groups for children to chat with each other. Sorry to burst your bubble, kids, but you’re under 13. You don’t need a Whatsapp group. Pick up the land line and call your friends to talk to them. It worked when we were growing up and it works now too.

People are openly surprised when we tell them that Gy does not use gadgets, play on the iPad or on my phone. She uses the laptop at home to access school sites and learning applications under my watchful eye. We have enabled parental controls on all devices at home and have had an open discussion with her on the need for controlled time online as well as making her realise that the world wide web is a quicksand of mammoth proportions.

Are gadgets bad? No, they have their uses, but limiting them makes sense, in my opinion.What does she do to keep busy? She plays outdoors with her friends, reads a lot, plays board games, quills, crafts, draws, paints and uses even kitchen items and clothes from my wardrobe to keep herself engaged. Trust me, it works.

2. Monitoring social media usage

I get that you don’t want to be that parent who hovers over her child’s shoulder or keeps asking your child whether he/she is on a gaming site for longer than necessary. Children need their space but how much of that space is filled with innocent friends and how much of it is being trawled by predators is a murky call.

If your children do use social media, my suggestion is they do it in the open with you around. Let them make their way around but ask them to be wary of clicking on spurious links and friend requests from people that they know nothing of, outside of social media. Ask them to be wary of uploading pictures of themselves onto any social media network.

These are adolescents with changing values and variable hormones.Treading delicately makes sense but total relinquishing of control does not. Be the parent who is empathetic yet detached. Tricky, I know.

3. Keeping an open channel of communication

In my mind, this is the most important guideline of all. You know when your kids babble incessantly and drive you crazy with their talking? As maddening as it may be, learn to listen to them. It’s important. It’s the fact that you are open to their ideas now that will help them come back to you and talk about the things that really matter when they grow older- trouble with a friend, a suspicious touch at school, something uncomfortable that they read/heard- it could be just about anything.

It bears to keep in mind the following rule as well as pass it on to your kids at every opportunity: The world online is very scary and very different from the real world. People can hide behind a screen and be extremely vindictive or suspiciously nice, for their own motives. A part of me is saddened that I have to warn my child of predators everywhere these days: schools, malls, restaurants and even online, but there’s little else to be done.

So, while I may be called a Dragon or Tiger Mom for limiting technology for my child or monitoring the time that she spends online, I’d prefer to play it safe than sorry. Knowing that despite doing everything I cannot protect my child 100%, I’m still going to give it my very best shot. It’s the least I can do.

~~~~~

Suggested Further Reading:

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Comments

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26 thoughts on “Social media, cyber bullying and our kids: Are you aware enough?

  1. Shailaja, I had read the article you shared and I couldnt sleep either. In India, it is a tragedy just waiting to happen due to lack of awareness amongst parents and school teachers.

  2. I still wake up in a bit of a sweat, Lata. I always wondered if I was doing the right thing by limiting gadgets for Gy. Now I am more aware than ever that it is for the best. I hope more awareness is generated about this and soon.

  3. Breck's murder is so shocking and disturbing! Cyber-bullying is a big menace. Kids are tormented and harassed through social media, emails, instant messaging with just a click of a button. And worst is that these can go viral and the whole world may know about it except the ones the parents or the ones who can put a stop to it. I am all for limited gadget time and parental control and monitoring usage. And yes building an environment of trust so that child can openly talk about his issues/fears.

  4. Shailaja….I couldnt have come across this piece at a more opportune time. Very recently, I published an article about how we could use digital gaming favorably for a kids development. It got mixed reactions. While some accepted that it is a necessary evil, there were views of parents like us, who were worried about what you have mentioned here. And I agree, it is becoming a nightmare especially in countries like India where cyber laws are still in-sufficient and cyber-bullying is yet to be accepted as a full-fledged crime. As parents, we need to be involved with the kid/teen both in online and offline mode. Good Article! Cheers!

  5. I agree that digital gaming if done the right way with the emphasis on the learning aspect, like any subject, is worth pursuing. Cyber laws are slowly tightening here but there's a long way to go before we see anything positive come of it. Poor Brent fell prey in a country where the protocols were already so strict, so there are no guarantees, are there? Thanks for reading, Deepali. Can you share the link to your article?

  6. I remember having written a post on cyber bullies three years back, and was then bullied for writing that post. The post has long since been taken down, maybe I wasn't strong enough to fight, then maybe I just did not believe enough. But if I could lose to a cyber bully, the kids do not even stand a chance. I wish laws were stricter in India, but then that isn't the solution to the problem. We need to raise more aware kids, and be strict when it is required to be as parents.

  7. See? Why should you have to take down something which holds so much relevance in today's social media age? I say, put it back up if you have it saved in drafts. Nobody should have the power to dictate to you on what you should or not do, as long as you are not attacking people through the post.

    We absolutely need to raise aware kids. It's necessary for their future and ours. I am all for positive parenting but I believe in wielding the discipline when necessary.

  8. Just nodding along at every point in the post Shailaja. I worry that technology is taking over our lives in some ways, but as long as we keep kids aware of the dangers, I truly hope that we are able to harness the power of the Internet and especially social media in their lives.

  9. That's what I am counting on, hope and the fact that kids can talk to us at any time. It is more imperative than ever that we learn to listen to them when they speak, even if it is mindless prattle at times.

  10. That article was very disturbing. I feel so awful about what happened to the kid, but I also could not stop thinking about the mother, who has to live with that knowledge for the rest of her life.

    These are some very helpful tips, Shy. I keep reminding myself about keeping communication channels open. It is difficult to not tune out the babble, but I know it's important to listen. I am making an effort.

  11. I had read a similar article a couple of years back and had talked to my elder son about it. It is good to share with them the reality of it all. I allow my children to play games on their tabs, ration the time and hover around. You can never be too safe when it comes to protecting our children.

  12. Cyber bullying has always been there. It's just that these days, kids take to technology much earlier. The only thing we can do is keep a check on what they do and explain the reality of the situation. The quicker they realise that it's a tough world out there, the more adept they will be at dealing it. Of course, nothing like talking about it. Open channels of communication is what is key here.
    Nice one, Shailaja.

  13. True that Sid….bullies were always there.offline or Online. The only way to alleviate the impact is to keep the kids connected with parents/family always.The impact of “parents” should always be more than any other resource.

  14. I am totally with you on this Shailaja! We did not let Vidur use any gadget except the computer, and that too, limited and scheduled into his time table when he had to start using it for school projects (and he sneaked into blogging at the time). I shudder to think of the dexterity with which kids seamlessly know to operate just about everything. Everywhere we go, even the very young ones are busy thumbing screens. No matter how many horror stories we see in the media, it is a growing epidemic, and one that needs control. Can be done gently and lovingly. But when it comes to parenting – the toughest part perhaps is this: parents find it difficult to control themselves. So what kind of examples will children follow? Very sad.

    I am cool with you being tough mom 😛

  15. Incidents like these makes one wonder whether it is sensible to be on social media at all. Like you mentioned, gadgets are a no-no for children at my place too. And I do talk t them about incidents like these. I also told them about the photo theft incident I had to survive last year. Open communication and giving logic works with kids. But such cases scare the mother in me and I worry about their future like everyone else. If only we could get rid of this menace called cyberbullying!

  16. I ration time like the devil. I am so freaked out when I read articles like these and have spoken to Gy on the need for moderation and supervision and she understands. I find that being open with kids works the best instead of having them sneak around behind your back. Hope that sustains well into her growing years.

  17. Thank you Sid. I am just hoping that these posts will raise the awareness quotient a bit more considering how tech savvy kids are these days. It helps if we parents are always on the same page as them too.

  18. Yes why do parents allow their kids to bully them into using gadgets? I think a firm No when used right goes a long way in building discipline. I wish more parents would do that and move away from attachment parenting. Ah well, tough mom is what Gy gets 😉

  19. I know what you mean. I hate the idea of social media on some days, but what to do? Work and my blogs demand that we stay there. I wish I could chuck this whole tech thing into the ocean on some days and go back to simpler living. I recall that photo theft incident and am so wary now of sharing any photos on social media. Creepy!

  20. Thanks for putting out an article on cyber bullying. The article you shared is one of the challenges the parents of our generation have to face about how to tackle and approach the problem and ensuring that our kids listen to us rather than the cool dude at the other end of the device. Taking time out to talk to our children about online safety and reading them articles such as these (though gruesome) may be one of the ways to drive the point across.

  21. I know what you mean, Nagalakshmi. The world wide web is a very scary place and at times I wonder even if all the precautions I take will ever be enough to keep my child safe. I do trust in the power of prayer and prepare myself for everything as well as I can. At this point, there's only this much we can do, in addition to keeping the channels of communication open.

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