How To Talk to Your Kid about Cyberbullying and Responsible Use of Technology

by Patrick on October 12, 2010

Illustration of PatrickOver the last two weeks, the suicides of four teens has pushed the issue of cyber-bullying to the front of our public mind. You can’t open a newspaper, watch the Today Show or log on to without facing the issue. Children all over this country are using technology to intimidate, threaten each other, or put themselves in danger.

It’s a new frontier of potential problems and parental challenges. Facebook, texting, Twitter, and even camera phones are creating a more modern form of communication and adolescents’ lives will never be the same.

These latest advances in technology are changing faster than a thoughtful parent can keep up – leaving you with a colossal problem. How do you start a conversation about sexting, cyber-bullying, and appropriate Facebook use without alienating your kid and without sweating through your t-shirt?

The first thing to remember is that all of these issues are constant conversations. You need to be talking about them on a continuous basis. When you talk with your child about sending inappropriate or hurtful things through their phones, It’s an ongoing dialogue.

It’s not something you mention once in the car on the way home and than check off you list. You’ve got to keep them talking.

Using Scenarios to Start the Conversation

An easy way to start the dialogue is to present your child with impersonal scenarios to cage their thinking. The scenarios are open-ended and have no right or wrong answer they require consideration and thought. Your job is to listen before you evaluate. Announce that you’ll be playing devil’s advocate if you disagree with them.

Here are a few scenarios t0 present with your child. We also included a few questions to keep the conversation going.

1 . A mother’s was concerned that her daughter was talking to someone online that might be dangerous. The mother decided to check the history on the daughter’s computer.

Were the mother’s actions justified? What could the mother do differently next time? What should young people know about using the internet responsibly?

2 . A bully has been harassing a group of friends at school. The group decides to create a facebook page that gossips and ridicules the bully. Within months the bully is so upset she drops out of school.

What do you think about the friends’ decision to create the facebook page? How do you think the bully and friends felt in the situation? Whose fault is it that the bully left school?

3 . A friend sent a private and embarrassing text to another friend. Later that week the two had a fight and one friend decided to send that text to everyone in the class.

How would you feel if this happened to you? Has this happened to anyone at your school? Do you think this could happen with your group of friends?

The time to talk about these issues isn’t when you’ve already read their text messages, or you’ve already heard about inappropriate emails. You’re too late. The ship has sailed.

You’ve got start talking about these issues together before these technologies create a problem.

Keep you eyes on current event around these issues and bring them up with your child. Find out what they think and inquire about what they believe. Dig deep and pick their brains.

It’ll let you know what they believe.

It will also give you a minute to share your thinking on the situation.

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