We have all done things we are not proud of as parents and I am no exception. I caught myself taking out my difficult day on an email that rubbed me the wrong way…FROM MY CHILD’S TEACHER. Here is where I apologize for my rant(s). I realized later that my inner shame about leaving my kids in Spain, while I went to the U.S. to learn, lead me to accuse another woman of wanting me to stay in the kitchen while she goes off to work!!! #workinprogress
Today I read the title, “Social Media and Teen Anxiety”, by Leah Shafer. I automatically started to get uneasy. My trigger emotion is FEAR and it can turn me into an aggressive and shame displaying mess! Haunted by motherly FEAR, hurt feelings over criticism in the virtual world and a need for self-forgiveness for those I have wronged with poor digital etiquette, I want to discuss an online subject that is worrisome to parents and educators, Cyberbullying.
Even with new technology, the basics of raising children are the same:
- Model proper behavior
- Teach values to live as an active member of a community
- Be consistent and set limits
- Make real connections with your child
CYBERBULLIES ARE BULLIES
Bullies are people who are lacking something in their own lives, the internal frustration causes bullies to act out. This can be a prolonged behavior (based on nature vs. nurture) or a momentary lapse in judgement because kids are testing social norms (i.e. something is happening so this is a “cry for help”, or a spontaneous decision to try something when learning how to socialize). Bullying shows a lack of Emotional Intelligence. The more time we spend online and away from face-to-face interactions, the easier it is to be cruel to others.
Regardless, I think we need to be mindful about the reality of cyberbullying and how the 2D life is creating more bullies from all over the globe. The anonymous aspect of this type of bullying makes it tough to predict and tough to combat.
WHO GETS TARGETED?
A bully’s prey can be someone they are envious or resentful of or an “easy target” (someone who lacks certain social skills and has difficulty solving social problems or someone with special rights). The goal is to demean or shame another person. But the aim is really to conceal the bully’s own shame and the behavior falsely-empowers the bully to protect their own fragile ego. Bullying can mask depression, insecure attachments, ineffective discipline or environmental stress.
Warning signs are similar to those of traditional bullying:
- Aggressive behavior from a typically non-aggressive child (especially toward “safe” people)
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of interest
- Thinking negative thoughts (self-critical)
Victims of cyberbullying tend to have a higher rate of depression. I am unsure if that is because of the cruelty factor, or the lack of coping skills we gave to our youth during the time when cyberbullying came about, or because the tendency to have higher rates of depression increases with more time spent online. I have my suspicions...
WHAT WE CAN DO AS PARENTS
The four biggest things:
- We have to help our kids develop self-efficacy (the belief in yourself and that you are capable of accomplishing a goal)
- We have to model how to treat others online (treat others how we want our child to be treated-emails, Whatsapps, social media)
- We have to put down our own devices and really connect with our kids (making them #2 to our device WILL turn them into bullies)
- We have to keep their device use to a minimum and force real world interactions with other kids (time outdoors improves mental health)
TRAIN OUR CHILDREN
Tips to practice:
- Don’t react (emotional control)
- When things get cruel, drop the phone and walk away
- Trust that the message is not true because I know myself (self-esteem)
- Understand why it happens (empathyhelps-knowing that the bully is struggling, we understand that it is not personal)
- As parents, give kids tools to fight their battle
- Stay away from social media until the age of 15.
- School shaming and teacher shaming-that is bullying and terrible modeling
*Watch empowering films-Inside Out is great for kids
*Visit exhibits that show what happens when bullies take over
*Read Screenwise by Dr. Devorah Heitner
I HAVE HOPE
It is an exciting time in the world because we are repaving the way for everything. This transition gives us the chance to develop new ideas that are helpful for Generation Z. Let’s model caring about others so that our children learn to do the same thing!
As a global community, we have to build a foundation where it is known that bullying is morally wrong. Admiring leaders who use intimidation and cyberbullying is not the way to set the best example for our future generations.
Finally, let’s work together to give kids the life skills to THRIVE and that means teaching them how to deal with difficult people. It is the easiest way to tackle cyberbullying and it will be one less thing they can throw in our faces when they are at the age where they realize how hard parenting really is (and how we ROCKED IT)!
** This post has been adapted from a previous post on our blog to share with readers at Lingokids. We love collaborating with like-minded companies who respect children and families and who are willing to share the responsibility that goes along with educating our digital natives, Generation Z, in the face of new technology and our learning curve as a society. To learn English successfully, you must create context, lower the affective-filter and actively learn which is what both of our companies do best!
Jill Stribling is the owner and founder of English for Fun, passionately educating with respect for children for 23 years, and a mother of two THRIVING bilingual future adults. She is dedicated and inspired by empowering children and families through FEAR elimination. Jill developed the methodology for English for Fun language academy and began her entrepreneurial journey as an Expat in 2008 where 5000+ children have successfully learned to live in English. She proves that with curiosity, confidence, determination, resilience and GRIT, anything is possible! You can find Jill Stribling on Linkedin and Instagram at@lifeforfun_es.