February 05, 2014 —
The face of teen bullying has really changed over the years. It’s not restricted to the old image of a bully in the cafeteria or on the bus that calls you names to your face or picks a physical fight with you. It can be a group ignoring your child, avoiding them or acting like they are invisible. With social media, it’s even easier to bully via Facebook, texts, tweets, etc. Cyberbullies can be sneaky these days. They might hide their identity – sharing damaging photos of your child, leaving anonymous comments or targeting their victims in other indirect ways. For some teens, telling mom and dad that they are being bullied, doesn’t feel like an option. It makes it more real and they don’t know how their parents are going to respond, so they often decide to keep it to themselves.
Here are three pieces of advice:
- Practice assertiveness training techniques with your kids at home. It can be tied to a game, a healthy debate or a dinner conversation. Use bullying as the main topic and let the conversation naturally unfold. Starting with a question usually helps. “What does bullying look like these days?” Or, if your child wants a more private experience, encourage them to practice assertiveness in front of their bedroom mirror. Have them stare their reflection straight in the eyes as they speak. Give them some language if they don't know what to say. Practicing NO is always a good start. “No, you can’t look at my homework.” “No, I’m not listening to you.” “No, I’m not doing that.” As they say it to the mirror, have them focus on their tone. Sometimes how you say something is even more powerful than the actual words you say. Then they can more comfortably transfer these techniques to an actual bullying situation.
- Be proactive and talk about bullying with kids before it becomes an issue, so they know what to do if it happens. Create a solid game plan and let them know how you will deal with it together. That way there are no surprises. If they like the plan, they will cooperate. But remember, some kids just won’t be comfortable telling mom or dad if they are bullied. Identify another adult (family or friend) that both you and your child trust so they have someone else to turn to if needed.
- Talk to you kids’ school about developing anti-bullying campaigns and curriculum which include information and strategies on cyberbullying. Some schools have already designed great models and curriculum to tackle the issue. You can even do a quick internet search to find some in your area. Just Say Yes is one organization that helps empower teachers, students and parents to work together within the school system, encouraging students to say yes to their dreams and goals and no to destructive choices.
Remember... it takes a village. This issue is one that doesn’t just affect teens, but families, schools and entire communities. We need to be proactive and not reactive to the threat of bullying whether in person or online and arm ourselves and our children with the right language, knowledge, and tools needed to be successful against these forms of attacks.
Dr. Carol Langlois is a former University Associate Provost and Dean, trained therapist, researcher and author. Dr. Langlois hosts a blog, Girl Talk w/ Dr Carol, which offers practical advice and guidance on self-esteem issues as a tool for parents and teens. Check out her book trailer for Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image, which is a compilation of interviews with teen girls on the topic of self-esteem. You can also find Dr. Langlois on Twitter where she tweets information, articles and tips related to this very important topic.