The post on the PC Pandora Blog, “The signs of cyberbullying,” refers to an article by Elizabeth Wasserman, “Warning signs: Is Your Child Having Cyber Issues?” The original article gives a good list of some of the signs that your child might be having trouble dealing with cyber bullies. The follow-up post refers to the PC Pandora software that will alert parents if their child is either being the victim of cyberbullying or is even a cyberbully him or herself. The signs they listed were: * Changed work habits, grades slipping, failing tests. * Losing sleep or sleeping too much. * Increased insecurity or irritability.
I would add withdrawal and lack of communication. These warning signs are really some of the warning signs that teenagers are having problems with any issue they can’t resolve by themselves, not only cyberbullying. They’re tip-offs that parents need to talk more with their children and find out what’s going on.
However, the solutions suggested by the experts in the article fall short in the real-world. They all stem from the ideas that kids are experts and parents should not upset or pressure their children too much. Instead, parents should only make what I think of as weak suggestions.
However, suggestions are nice but are usually not enough. Most children may be more expert than their parents about technology but: 1. They don’t know what’s best for them. I hope that as parents with much broader experience, we know a lot that our children don’t and they have already had the opportunity to see that. 2. They’re not more expert than we are about dealing with bullies. I hope we have many ideas they haven’t thought about, even if that might mean they would have to go outside their comfort zones or we might have to intervene.
We may have to work hard to get our kids to tell us or to problem solve with us. How many of us told our parents when we had trouble? But that’s the universal task. Their liking it or not is not the most important criterion.
I know parents who have even prohibited their children from wasting time on social networks like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. They want their children to have face to face social activities with real people they can judge face to face. How’s that for a concept.
I also think that to put a dent in the amount of cyberbullying, we’ll need Federal laws to make it illegal and then the willingness of social networks to turn over records of cyberbullies. Writing and enforcing these laws will be as difficult as enforcing the libel laws we already have. We’ll have to distinguish between an angry exchange and a pattern of on-going attacks.
I learned effective techniques to deal with bullies through growing up in New York City, by watching our six children (three girls and three boys) deal with each other and with bullies at school, and through my experience as a coach, psychotherapist and consultant.