When I was growing up, I certainly had my fair share of run-ins with groups of girls (or boys) that didn’t like me because I wasn’t cool enough, pretty enough, rich enough, –you name it. I’ve written before about things that have happened to me growing up, and even instances where I was actually the bully, just because I wanted to fit in. This was all back before the days of text messaging, Facebook and Twitter. There was no Instagram, no SnapChat, nothing. The only way you could really pick on someone was by prank calling them or by doing it in person, to their face. And with the prank calling, there was no *67 or caller ID, so you could just call from your home phone and be done with it. Easy!
Now kids are susceptible to bullying, harrassment, and just plain old being picked on from so many different directions. There’s Facebook statuses and comments, Twitter wars, and texting. It seems that when kids have an audience on a public forum like Facebook or Twitter, they can get even meaner. It gives them attention, as friends are hurriedly forwarding, retweeting and “liking” or “favoriting” the bully’s status updates and tweets. Some kids might think it’s harmless fun and games, but they have no idea how much it can hurt the kid that is the victim. The news is filled with kids that have committed suicide because of cyber-bullying:
There’s so many more– I could spend forever listing all of the kids that have taken their own lives because they felt that was the only way to get the bullying and harrassment to stop. You can read through the stories of these children, and see countless times that the parents either knew nothing about the bullying, or knew but the child begged them not to say anything. Many times, kids feel like getting their parents involved can only make the bullying worse.
So what do you do when this starts happening to your own child?
Yesterday, I posted this status on my Facebook page:
I posted this in regard to a situation that was happening with my 17-year old daughter. I won’t go into details because she wants that kept private. I will say, though, that it involves a boy from her school and two of his friends that go to a different school. Rumors were started, twitter attacks ensued and foul language was flying. Now, funny thing is… had one of these kids walked up to her in the hallway at school and started saying this crap, I would have told her to go straight to the school office, and I’d be right behind her. But what about when it happens through social media, and it takes place outside of school hours? Do you step in and put a stop to it, or do you just block the people and let it fizzle out on it’s own? I was shocked at the reaction I got to my Facebook question– people suggesting I print out the offensive tweets, call the police, call the school, call the parents. People feel very strongly about it.
I’ve talked to my daughter, I’ve seen the twitter feed, and for now– as much as I WANT TO GO BEAT THE HELL OUT OF THEM, or at least get the police and the schools involved, we’ve decided we’re waiting it out. After a long discussion with both of my kids about not responding when stuff like this gets said to them, the bullies have now been blocked. We’re hoping that by my daughter not responding and simply banning them, there will be no interaction between them. Funny thing is, these kids don’t even talk to her outside of Twitter. The two kids from a nearby school don’t even know her!!
After reading some of the conversations that have taken place on Twitter, I’ve determined it’s the new Facebook for teenagers. These kids have figured out that their parents and other family members are all on Facebook, so they’ve moved to Twitter. Even my own husband said last night “I don’t know anything about Twitter, and have no desire to learn.” But I think we as parents HAVE TO. If it’s something our children are involved in, we HAVE TO KNOW what’s going on. I have to believe that the parents of these kids have no idea what their children are doing and saying. There are references to parties, drinking, smoking pot… you name it, these kids have no problem telling the world of their crazy teenaged life, without a care in the world.
How many of you know the different websites your child belongs to? There’s more than just Facebook and Twitter now. Did you know about ask.fm? Ask.fm is a site where kids can register and anyone that wants to can go on the site and ask them a question– ANONYMOUSLY? The user has no way of knowing who is asking the question. This is another site my daughter got caught up in, and it started out as being a purely fun way to interact with people. It started out with the usual questions like “Which guy do you like most at your school?” to “Who was your first kiss?” Then it turned into people asking “Are you a virgin?” “How many times have you been drunk?” and it only got worse from there.
Because of all the idiots out there, we have established the following rules in our home:
1. In order for them to have a Facebook account, I have to know their password, and we are to remain “friends” on the site. Period.
2. I have passwords for their email accounts, and have the right to check them at my discretion.
3. I have their passwords for Twitter, and I follow them.
And really, it’s not that I don’t trust my kids. I’ve explained that to them many times. I trust them wholeheartedly. But I DON’T trust everyone else out there. Bottom line, I’m trying to make sure my children make better choices and choose better friends than I did at their age.
The only thing I can take away from my years of rebellion as a teenager is the realization that I know EXACTLY how I DON’T want my kids to be.
So this begs the question… Do you monitor your child’s social media habits? Are you the parent that knows every password, and monitors everything closely… or are you the type that wants to just let “kids be kids”? Or maybe you’re somewhere in between?