Ann Collier is a writer and journalist and editor of NetFamilyNews.org, whose excellent safety tips for tweens and teens I’ve quoted on this blog before.
Another couple of articles from her this month have caught my eye. Clicks and cliques: *Really* meaty advice for parents on cyberbullying is a lengthy, detailed account of Annie Fox’s recent 55-min. interview with fellow educator and author Rosalind Wiseman at FamilyConfidential.com. It talks about what a parent/carer should do when their teen comes to them with a cyberbullying problem. How how to give their child the tools to cope with the situation, how to talk to their charge in a candid, respectful way and, in the process, helping him/her to understand the rights and responsibilities of being a human being as well as a technology user.
Ann Collier has turned the podcast into two articles directed at ‘parents’ and ‘schools’. The schools post was full of some great advice to education professionals about how to handle cyberbullying and sexting as a ‘whole-school’ response involving teaching staff, pupils and parents (versus delivering a 30 minute assembly as a one-off).
The parenting post has a wider audience and so I’ll attempt to further further distil the wisdom of it here – but do read the originals if you have time because they explain the points in far greater detail than I have space for.
- Whatever teens may think, just because its commonplace, it’s NOT normal or OK to be cyberbullied, and they need to be reassured that it’s the correct reaction to be upset by it
- Parents/carers should recognise the child is taking a risk by confessing their fears. Most of the time they think that going to an adult will make it worse, which is why research shows only 10% of teens report cyberbullying to their parents (see this)
- Utilise Wiseman’s ‘SEAL Strategy’, designed to help the child, if not completely take back control of the situation, at least mentally work her way out of victimization mode.
S means you “stop and think when and where, now or later, publicly or privately”
E is about how “you explain exactly what you don’t like and exactly what you want.”
A is really two As – for “affirm” and “acknowledge/admit” their rights and responsibilities. The first A is their right to live unmolested by bullies. The second A is acknowledge/admit the role they themselves have had in the situation.
L is “You either lock in or lock out the relationship or friendship with the person you confronted – or you take a vacation from it.”
It’s really important for adults to bear in mind that there is more than one perspective on a situation and to try not to be too partisan when listening to your teen’s account of what has been happening. Always check with the other parents/teachers involved whether your understanding of the situation is accurate. “You’re teaching your child how you handle conflict,” Wiseman says in the podcast.
She adds that, no matter how much technology is involved in the issue being worked out, “this is not a technology issue; ultimately, it’s a parenting issue.” Which of course means providing a good role model yourself in the social media society: if your own Facebook posts are full of taunts or personal information, then it’s likely your teen’s will be too.
Image by TylerEric via Flickr