For today's children, the most popular form of bullying is cyberbullying. Recent studies have found that almost 90 percent of teens have witnessed digital bullying. To wrap our heads around this, consider that just a few years ago it was estimated that only 27 percent of our kids had encountered online bullying. Under our watchful eyes, cyberbullying rates have tripled even with all of our assemblies, campaigns, and zero tolerance policies.
This is saddening because we know how damaging bullying can be for a young person. However, cyberbullying can be a lot more dangerous, because our kids live in a highly connected online world. Their love of technology and all things digital gives unlimited opportunities for bullies to attack or leave cruel messages any time of day or night.
Many people often assume that we can simply turn off a cell phone or delete a cruel message. Unfortunately, cyberbullying happens in a variety of ways and changes with new platforms or technologies that hit the market. It's no secret that children are incredibly adept at finding new ways to lash out at others. Regardless of how it occurs, cyberbullying can cause a vicious cycle to develop which results in depression, loneliness, anxiety, and even thoughts of self harm.
All parents need to begin proactively approaching cyberbullying when their children are young to prevent it from becoming a bigger issue later. Listed below are 8 tips to explain cyberbullying to small children:
#1. Make sure to stress it's not them, it's other people that are the problem
There is nothing wrong with our children or families. There are always going to be people who don't agree or like us. We need to ignore them and do what's best for our family.
#2. Remember young children are literally concrete thinkers
This is important, because they might not be able to comprehend objects, principles, morals, or large ideas until they hit adolescence, usually around 11 years old.
#3. Keep it simple
For most young children a simple explanation is all that is needed. Avoid going into too much detail. Often, kids are happy just getting an answer to their questions. As a child ages, though, we may want to start explaining in more detail based on maturity and need levels.
#4. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all
We need to stop telling our kids that words can never hurt them, because they can. Talk about the power of words with children to help them realize once something is said, it can never be taken back. For young children, use read alouds, movies, and stories to help them understand this concept.
#5. Model kindness, respect, and appropriate coping methods
Our relationships often expose us to more ridicule and slurs than other families. We need to avoid name calling, yelling, and anger. Our kids are watching our reactions, so we need to lead by example.
#6. Practice ways to handle cyber bullying and empower them with skills to diffuse the situation
By teaching them how to handle bullying situations, they will not be caught off guard so they can handle the bully with tact and grace. Let them know that it is alright to walk away, ignore slurs, seek help from an adult, avoid arguments, and stand up for themselves safely. Roleplay possible situations with our kids while playing dolls or Legos.
#7. Help build empathy and compassion
Unfortunately, not every child is a victim of cyberbullying. Far too often our kids can become the bully. We need to make sure they have the ability to “wear another person's shoes" and feel empathy for others. Use books, movies, and volunteer to expose kids to a variety of feelings and circumstances.
#8. Begin an ongoing discussion about their feelings, bullying, and other problems they encounter
As parents, we need to keep the communication lines open to stay involved and on top of any developing situations. This process needs to start when our boys and girls are young so it comes as second nature when they are older.
How do you explain or handle bullying when it comes to your children and families? Let us know in the comments.