January 14th, 2015
by Guest blogger Amy Williams
It’s no secret that as long as popular social media sites have existed, the virtual distance between computer screens has acted as a veil behind which many bullies feel safer lashing out in disrespectful or harmful ways.
Our children are up against unfavorable odds when it comes to cyberbullying and educating them on how to handle it is their best line of defence.
Cyberbullying is only becoming a bigger problem as the idea of anonymity online becomes increasingly popular. Sites like ask.fm, which allows questions from strangers, or apps like whisper, which allows anonymous conversations through picture messages, are making it easier for bullies to get away with leaving harmful comments.
In addition to teaching them how to keep a swivel in their neck when they walk down a dark street, hide their personal belongings when in public, and the age-old ‘never talk to strangers,’ it is now essential to show them some digital ropes. So don’t hide your head in the sand as a technically challenged, antiquated thinking adult but instead open your eyes to the many sordid actions your child may be challenged with on a daily basis.
Break the Barrier
With statistics showing approximately 25% of young people being bullied on the internet, 65% witnessing cyberbullying, and a whopping 90% admitting that they would never tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs, it is now or never to break this barrier.
If your child is still young enough to be shown some savvy digital moves then you are in luck. If you cover some ground rules when handing over an expensive, powerful device such as a smartphone or tablet chances are they will have a healthier transition.
However, if you are raising a tween or teen you may have to implement a whole new set of requirements for them to follow to keep their device. This can be met with extreme adversity but through the help of your partner and/or a professional such as a local cyber-police person or talk therapist hopefully your child will comply. (See The Parent Practice’s useful publications on ensuring cooperation with teens through good communication. http://www.theparentpractice.com/shop/publications )
If not, tough love may have to be put into place until they are willing to comply (over 27% of parents take their child’s device away until they can prove better digital practices).
Do Your Research
There are many websites that offer their take on how to prevent cyberbullying.
Most suggest fear based remedies that can end up being counterproductive as this tactic may make your child hyper vigilant and paranoid. Stick to sites that teach a more intellectual approach toward the many aspects of your child’s digital as well as physical world.
Offering them the opportunity to look through well taught eyes rather than panic at every situation they encounter will, in the long run, be the best gift you can give them. A fearful child will inevitably grow up to become a fearful adult and living a life of fear can be fraught with all sorts of unwanted scenarios including constant illness, misinformation, anger, victimization, difficult relationships and a constant challenge within career advancement.
The Tease Effect
Outside of computer communication, teasing can be witnessed as an underlying passive/aggressive tactic toward bullying or being bullied.
As it may begin somewhat innocently, when children tease one another their back and forth banter can quickly escalate into an ugly scenario. It is a way that children explore their ability to see how far their controlling tactics can be utilized.
When in the presence of an adult it can rapidly be quelled with some talk lessons on the damage or potential damage it carries. However, when it is transferred to a digital platform teasing remains beyond an adult’s supervision until it is too late.
A Scary Manifestation
Through what is referred to as the ‘Disinhibition Effect’ bullying can easily manifest on the web a lot faster and harsher than in person. It is described by researchers at the Department of Psychology, Rider University, Lawrenceville, New Jersey in an article titled, ‘The online disinhibition effect’ as, “While online, some people self-disclose or act out more frequently or intensely than they would in person.”
This article explores six factors that interact with one another in creating this effect: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity [being unaccountable], solipsistic introjection [regarding only one self], dissociative imagination [separating from reality], and minimisation of authority.”
It Won’t Go Away
Your child may seem well adjusted to school, friends, clubs, sports and so on for as they grow older face-to-face bullying lessens substantially. However, a study by the University of California - Riverside Graduate School of Education which was published in the journal, School Psychology Quarterly titled ‘Examination of the Change in Latent Statuses in Bullying Behaviors Across Time,’ researchers found that as students age they are verbally and physically bullied less, but cyberbullied more.
School Based Intervention
The University of California study recommended some school-based interventions as published by Science Daily. Here are a few to consider:
The researchers go on to warn that school as well as parental intervention for bullying should address each individual victim and perpetrator experience rather than attempt a wide curve education as a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Whether it is utilising tracking software to determine the severity of cyberbullying your child may be involved in, talk therapy, community and/or school involvement, using any means necessary can stop this destructive cycle.
Cyberbullying in the U.K.
Anywhere where internet use is a significant aspect of daily social interaction, cyberbullying will be an issue.
Fortunately, resources exist in the UK for anyone struggling to handle cyberbullying cases. From hotlines dedicated to handling these and similar issues, to laws protecting victims, this is a problem about which government officials are aware, and have adapted to handle.
Of course, all of the above, non-country specific advice is applicable too. Awareness is one of the most important steps towards dealing with online threats. Keeping that in mind alongside available laws and apps will give you or your child the power you need to handle online bullies.
For more information on cyberbullying and how it affects those targeted by it, check out the infographic below.
Amy Williams is a freelance writer based in Southern California. As a mother of two, helping parents understand their teens is something she is very passionate about. You can follow her on Twitter.
August 13th, 2014
Do you worry about the impact of the digital world on your kids? Do you despair about smart phones at the dinner table, late night texting and use of chat rooms, interrupted sleep patterns and children unable to stop gaming?
“I’ll stop in a minute – I just need to finish this level.”
Did you know that latest research tells us that by the age of seven, the average British child born today will have spent an entire year of his or her life in front of a screen?
Do you find yourself checking your emails, Face book and text messages every 10 minutes?
I had a really harsh wake-up call recently after reading Frances Booth’s ‘Distraction Trap’ book. I was inspired to get the whole family to do the ‘How digitally distracted are you?’ test. The results were not as I expected and it was truly alarming to discover that THE most digitally distracted person in the house was ME! I have been finding over the years that I fallen into the distraction trap and was blissfully unaware of the impact it was having on all the family. The digital world is here to stay and at The Parent Practice we are fully embracing it as we prepare for the launch of our on-line course. The digital world is exciting and powerful and the opportunities it presents for children and adults (and businesses) is immense.
I am starting to change my mindset around this however and becoming more aware of the impact of gadgets on our family life. The other day a client recounted a wonderful story about when she took her son to his swimming class last week, after the session he came over to her and in a loud angry voice said:
“You weren’t watching me!” Mum, immediately defended herself and explained:
“Oh, I was watching you - you were wonderful and did an amazing dive.”
“But every time I looked up, I could see you on your phone texting or reading email messages!”
Thank goodness this boy was emotionally intelligent enough to explain how he felt as if he had not been able to do this, I can guarantee his emotions and feelings would have come out as negative, demanding behaviour. He was trying to say he did not feel important or valued and that special time when Mum could have been watching him was sabotaged by the digital distraction.
What can you do?
Be the change you want to see.
For many of us using our electrical devices is a must. They keep us organised and allow us to keep in touch and entertained. We rely on them and enjoy them, yet often we berate our children for doing exactly what we are doing ourselves! Hypocritical or what?
1. Look at your own habits - ask yourself why you do what you do and when? If you are constantly checking your messages, outside of work, is this more important than being with your family at this time?
2. Ask yourself what you fear missing out on. If you don’t keep checking your phone there is a real and tangible fear that we will miss something very important or worthwhile, but maybe what we are missing out on is being present with our children. I recall when my son was a baby (he is now 18 years old) the mobile phone market was still in its introductory phase and when I was late picking him up from the child minder due to train delays, unable to connect with her, the world did not end. We survived.
3. Modelling is 80% of parenting - children absorb all the mannerisms and habits and language we use. I know this and I also know I have some bad habits, so for many, including me, this is uncomfortable reading. Just by being more aware of how we are using devices and gadgets will raise our levels of consciousness.
4. Be more in the present - and be aware of the environment around you
5. Have gadget free zones – ensure as a family you sit down and agree gadget-free zones and times and how about a gadget-free day or weekend? We recommend no one in the family has their phones in the bedroom. Or does the mere thought of that send you spinning?
6. Quick tip –when at your computer disable the email pop-up functionality so that you can focus on one thing at once. This has been found to increase productivity hugely.
7. Reframe device-free time – When you’re waiting for anything don’t just reach for your handset –you don’t need to look busy and connected for the strangers who may observe you. Think of this as creative thinking or planning time rather than ‘wasted’ time.
PS: When are you going to plan your digital downtime TODAY?
If you are interested in exploring this topic further see our publication ‘Parenting in a digital world’, packed full of ideas and skills you can implement immediately. If you found these ideas useful please share them with friends and family and for more parenting insights sign up for our newsletter.
Happy parenting! Elaine and Melissa
October 31st, 2010
By Ann Magalhaes
By last Autumn almost (or so it seemed!) all the children in my daughter’s class had their own Nintendo DS game. I had managed to get through the term without buying one, but by the time the holidays started, she was asking for one. At the same time, at school, she was really struggling with Maths and was really starting to lose her confidence.
The Head Teacher at her school awards a special sticker for good work and extra effort, and my daughter was convinced that she would never receive one for her Maths work. One day, we had a lovely conversation about belief, and if she didn’t believe she could receive one of these stickers, then she probably wouldn’t. Then we talked about what would happen if she did believeshe could earn one. We talked about how believing something wasn’t going to be enough to make it happen. She knew that belief would need to be combined with some extra work if she were to stand a chance of earning the sticker. Now, before you think that I’m a pushy Mom, I have to say that I’m not! My daughter really wanted to earn the sticker, and I decided that as it was Christmas, I would present the extra incentive and get her to earn the DS!
Over the Christmas holidays, she worked every day on Maths – never more than 20 minutes a day – and I could see her ability increasing with each question she worked through. Sometimes she played math games on the computer, sometimes we made up times tables games using marbles, and we made up fun shopping games to learn more about money. She knew that if she received the sticker, she would earn the DS. This was motivating for her!
The second day back at school, I was waiting for her at the school gates. A little boy in her class bounded down the stairs and shouted, “S gets a DS now!” And then, I saw my daughter bounding down the same steps with such a proud smile with a gleaming golden sticker stuck onto her cardigan!! She had done it!!
Now it was my turn to fulfill my end of the deal and buy the DS! It arrived in the post by the end of the week, and together we sat down to establish some ground rules for playing with it. I’m not a huge proponent of excess screen time, so I wanted to make sure she had a clear set of rules, that would be created by her. We did this by having a conversation about how and when she would use the DS. She wrote a list of 10 rules, that I then posted in the living room for her to refer to if need be. Her rules included things like “I will only play with my Nintendo after homework; I will …
We were able to sit down and have a great conversation that left her knowing what was expected of her. Her list wasn’t a list of DON’Ts. Her list gave her the knowledge of what she was supposed to do in order to keep playing with her DSi. The amazing thing is that in the more than one year since buying the DSi, I have never (I’m serious!) NEVER had to take away her DS privileges. The rules tell her what to do! The rules are the ‘tough guy’! She can’t get upset with me because she made up the rules, and she is very aware that the reward for following them is DS time, and the consequence for not following them … you guessed it … missing out on DS time!
A year on, the DS doesn’t come out of the case very often now. The newest gadget in our home is the iPad … and for kids (of all ages!) … it IS incredible. We read the latest National Geographic magazines, watch movies, create art, email said art to Grandparents, play maths and spelling games. I love it just as much as she does.
I have been most blown away, though, by my daughter’s ability to transfer the rules that she established for the DS onto the iPad. We never even had a conversation about it. She just knows that she can’t use it until homework is finished, and that she can use it for 20 minutes during the week, and for as long as she likes on those long airplane rides!
Clear, positive rules with related rewards and consequences work, and my new discovery was that they are very easily transferrable! Great rules are NOT designed to tell your children what NOT to do. Rather, they are about empowering your children so THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO, so that ultimately they develop effective habits.
Want to learn more? Come to our latest wokshop on Children’s use of TV;electronic games and internet:keeping them safe and healthy
October 17th, 2010
By Elaine Halligan
As a parent of children in the 21st century you have, I am sure, many fears – maybe worrying about keeping our children safe outside the home? Maybe you have the perception that your child is in danger due to the news stories about child killings and paedophilia. The reality is however that with the introduction of new technologies and social networking sites the risks are possible as great inside our homes as well. “There are places your kids shouldn’t be hanging out in. Dark alleys. Street corners. Websites.” reports J.Kaplan from Fox News last week.
How well versed are you in the use of Facebook; MSN messaging; SMS and Twitter to name just a few? Our role as parents is to educate and we can only do that when we are knowledgeable about the risks involved. Cyber bullying is a real risk and the impact can be devastating, not just for the victim but also for the perpetrator. There are a growing number of girls and boys ( but particularly girls) as early as Year 5 and Year 6 setting up social networking accounts. Are you aware of what your children are doing?
Take a look at some interesting facts:
The subject is vast …if you want to know more register for our intensive workshop on the whole area of screens and internet safety on:
Wednesday 10th November 10-12.30pm at The Parent Practice in Clapham SW London
How safe is your child or teenager on the computer?