During the past four years, there has been a rise in student use of social media (Facebook, Twitter and texting are the top examples) for the purpose of degrading, threatening, bullying and harassing other kids. Too many of us have watched the recent shocking news stories about students like Rebecca Sedwick who were teased and bullied to the point where they chose to end their lives and escape the hurt and sadness brought on by words posted on social media.
When a bully writes a harassing post, the very real fear is that “everyone is going to get you in school tomorrow.” Many times, this causes the student being threatened to stay home to protect herself. When this happens, the school administration, school liaison officer, counselors and other staff must respond. Sadly, even if the kids who bullied others are suspended and their parents take their social media privileges away, it’s hard to stop the behavior. Kids have been known to continue the inappropriate behavior by going to a friend’s home and creating another social media account under a fake name or alias — and do it all over again.
Because schools, law enforcement and parents cannot solve the social media bullying and harassment problems on their own, parents need to speak directly to their children about posting threats, lies and bullying remarks online.
10 Tips about Using Social Media to Share With Your Kids
1. Be kind online. Don’t make cruel comments, bully, or exclude others. Words have power — so use them wisely.
2. Do not gossip (or read gossip) online. Gossip is a friendship killer. You and your friends may be having fun gossiping about other students now, but what are you going to do when your friends begin to gossip about you. It will happen, and it will not be fun! Listening to someone gossip is just as bad as gossiping yourself. Walk away or change the subject. It’s time to cut gossip out of your life.
3. Do not tell lies online. Other students will trust you more if they know you tell the truth. Do not cover up your mistakes by continuing to lie. Everyone knows you are lying. Say you’re sorry and begin telling the truth.
4. Do not be a fake online. Be real. Be who your really are. If you are nice, be nice. Phony people are always caught. When kids scream, yell and hug each other in the halls, then walk away and say, “I can’t stand her,” they are being fake. Everyone knows it, so stop it!
5. Communicate your issues face-to-face as much as possible– not online. Instead of gossiping to get back at someone, communicate and share your concerns. Be honest. Be polite. Be real! Explain your feelings to a friend or acquaintance who has offended you. Don’t wait two years to share your list of 101 offenses that were committed against you later. Be mature, open and share now the one concern that your friend may have hurt your feelings.
6. Do not be easily offended online. People make mistakes. People have bad days. People are stressed. Give a girl (or guy) a break. Look past the small offenses if you can.
7. Everything you text or do online is public. If the head of the CIA gets caught for sending an inappropriate text, you will get caught too. Before you put “it” out there, pretend you are sending it to your Grandma. Realize that the delete button does not permanently delete the picture, text message or drama. Your phone is not private; it is public. If you make a threat, the County Attorney can issue a warrant to seize your computer. Again, remember the Grandma rule!
8. Stay away from online drama. If the drama does not involve you, keep it that way. If it does involve you, walk away!
9. Know the drama people and know who you can trust online. If someone has broken your trust a few times, don’t hang out with this person any longer. Move on. Use wisdom and self control the next time you talk with a drama queen or king.
10. Keep information shared online confidential. If you tell someone that you will tell no one, then tell no one…unless the person sharing wants to hurt themself or someone else. When someone knows that they can trust you, a meaningful relationship has a great chance of developing.
About Scott Wardell
Scott Wardell has been a school counselor and educator for 34 years. He is the creator of SteadyParent.com: a parenting website devoted to assisting parents searching for solutions that lead to positive parenting outcomes while raising child, teens and young adults.