By Amy Williams
We’ve all heard the saying that a parent’s job is never done… Yes, there will always be dishes, laundry, homework to check, trash to be thrown out, practices, and more. As we juggle work and other household responsibilities, there are days we question our abilities to raise children in a safe and protected environment.
For many parents, one of our deepest rooted fears is that we are letting our children down.
Technology has connected society on a level never seen before. It’s also created an environment where children are unable to escape tormentors. There are many unseen threats lurking behind our devices, waiting to pounce on our children.
Cyber bullying is just one of the dangers facing our younger generations.
Texting and messaging have knocked down defenses a child might have against the cruel world of bullying. Victims are exposed all hours, regardless of their physical locations, with harassment and cruel posts that often go viral. This invites peers and others to like, comment, or share the hurtful information.
Many parents believe the misconception that cyber bullying can be erased easily with a tap of a delete button. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
With no physical barriers, a cyber bully’s onslaught can be extremely traumatic. Cyber bullying tends to isolate the victim, causing feelings that the world is stacked against him. Victims may suffer from emotional trauma, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
To put it all in perspective, here is a collection of data showing the prevalence of cyber bullying:
- 2.2 million is the estimated number of students who have experienced cyber bullying in a previous year
- Close to 72% of students report they were victims of cyber bullying at least once or twice during the year
- Almost 20% of teens stated that they were harassed online once or twice in a month
- 5% of children reported that they were cyber bullied once or twice a week
- 3% of adolescents reported being victimized by a cyber bully every day
- 80% of teens regularly use cell phones, which make them a common medium for cyber bullying
6 strategies for working parents
The anonymity provided by social media and cell phones can be difficult to fight against, but parents are not left completely defenseless. The key is to implement ideas and tools to help children when parents are not always available in the next room.
Here are six ways parents can help stop the vicious circle of unseen digital threats:
- Teach social media etiquette.
- Limit data plans. Studies have shown that sexting incidents decreased dramatically when parents limited a teen’s available data. These findings can be applied to cyber bullying.
- Instruct teens to notify an adult if they notice or experience cyber bullying. If you suspect a problem, read and open all your child’s messages together.
- Use screenshots and backup data to document cyber bullying. This will be handy if parents need to seek interventions from the school or authorities.
- Monitor a child’s Internet and cell phone. Know what sites and apps a child uses.
- Know their passwords and friend them online. A parent’s presence might be enough to discourage a bully. If needed, purchase an app that allows a parent convenient access to a child’s phone activity, texts, and Internet usage for the times you are away from home or the teen.
Parents often find themselves deeply rooted in the trenches fortifying and protecting our children from all threats.
Society has always had bullies or aggressive individuals, but technology has given these individuals a new vehicle for their assaults. Behaviors that once were contained on the playground, have now been unleashed into the safety of a child’s’ home, social circle, and more.
Parents that are aware of online dangers and how to protect their child’s emotional needs can rest a little easier. This will allow more time for the epic struggle of getting the kids out of bed, dressed, and everyone to school or work on time. Not too mention the constant juggling of work and the other household responsibilities.
It’s true that parents may never get a true vacation or time off, but our efforts pay off big with love and family. We need to remember the old adage: work smarter—not harder.
Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.