Today there is nothing more amazing or powerful than social media. Words and images travel at the speed of light to potentially billions of people at the click of a button or the touch of a send key. This technology might seem like progress if not for one giant problem: bullying and abuse. Bullying research has uncovered some surprising facts. Learn about Children and Social Media Bullying!
If you think because you’ve had the talk with your child about the dangers of the internet that this means they are safe, think again. Bullying and abuse can pop up like a stalker on your child seemingly out of nowhere when in reality, it happens right in front of you on a daily basis and without you even knowing. When you first heard of Twitter, it sounded cute, and kind of fun. Not so. If Twitter was for adults only, the risk would be in an entirely different category. But because our kids have access to it, now it is time to get real about the bullying and abuse that is happening basically in disguise. If you are still in disbelief, have a look for yourself. In fact, open a Twitter account. Open an Instagram account. Don’t know how? Bet your kids do.
Something else your children know about is the harassment that goes on over social media. It’s not just name calling or teasing like when we were kids in the school yard. This is real harassment, over this person being different, or whose parents are getting a divorce, or who can’t afford the cool shoes because their Dad left. This is also harassment with attachments. That’s right, images. Pictures exist of your children, taken with camera phones by other children, and are circulating across the Internet as we sit here pretending they are safe. Because of the advancements of smartphones these days, and the number of children’s hands they are in parents, we have armed our kids and given them an invitation to participate in this war against each other.
Bullying research has shown that all it takes is one awkward photo of your child in the hands of a spiteful school bully and in an instant, the whole school, the whole world sees it. Not only does the picture start to circulate, but there are also comments as well, and to make it worse, kids know how to comment “anonymously!” So there is no risk to the bully. Kids can be as nasty and abusive as they feel like being, hiding behind an anonymous comment. Or something much worse, a barrage of anonymous comments because the bully started a massive “trend”, the very thing social media is designed to do! Here’s another surprising fact: the kids are so used to it that until one of them commits suicide, it goes along unnoticed, weaving its way through your child’s daily life like a poisonous snake. If you ask the kids (and actually get a straight answer) even if they don’t know “who” will be targeted next, just that “someone” will.
The harassing comments on a picture of a teenage girl on Instagram upset her so badly that she killed herself. This isn’t just a teen being overly dramatic. These are the symptoms and behaviours of a person who has suffered from real abuse. Feeling desperate, ashamed, or believing that she was really as worthless as the people in the comments were saying, these things kept her from reaching out for help. The same thing happens in adult relationships that are abusive; it’s called Battered Wife Syndrome, or Battered Spouse Syndrome, and it is very real (NCBI on BWS). This is what our children are suffering from at the hands of bullies and abusers on social media. We urge you to spread the word on Children and Social Media Bullying!
So what can we, as parents, do about Children and Social Media Bullying? Do whatever it takes to build your child’s self-esteem. Put them in sports, or another activity they are good at and enjoy doing. Give them responsibilities and then praise them when do their best to handle them. Never punish your children by berating or calling them names. Be kind, but firm, and show that you trust them to do well. Your child’s self-esteem can be there to protect them when you’re not around. Will it protect them from bullies entirely? No. But the more confident they are in themselves, their own abilities and in their own skins, the fewer bullies will be able to bother them. You will sleep better at night knowing that you’ve given your child the best gift a parent could; you will have given them their own inner strength. Someday your child’s inner strength may have to be there for someone who doesn’t have any. And that could save a life.