Your teenager might be the nicest, most generous person on the planet, but what about friends and acquaintances? Have you talked about what to do when a good friend is treating someone else badly, or bullying whether in person or online?
Let’s take a look at online bullying for this Hot Buttons exercise.
According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:
- Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
- Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
- Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
The Hot Buttons column gives you a fictional scenario you can use to put your teen in the heat of moment and help him/her figure out what to do when that real life situation happens. You should take this as an opportunity to see where your teenager may need some help or might face a struggle one day.
Now, tell your teen this story as though it’s really happening to him/her:
You show up at your best friend’s house where you’re meeting a group for a movie. When you arrive, a few of your friends are huddled around a computer screen, laughing at whatever it is they’re looking at. You approach and peek over their shoulder. To your horror, you see that they’ve edited a picture of another friend of yours and are super-imposing the face onto a naked body.
When you ask what they’re doing, one replies, “Oh, we’re getting ready to go viral with this.”
Another says, “Yep. Facebook’s about to explode!”
What do you do?
Present the following choices to your teenager:
- You laugh along with your friends and hope no one finds out you were there. It’s all in fun.
- You can’t stop them, but you don’t want to be a part of it. You make up an excuse to get out of there.
- You sneak off to the bathroom and call your friend to warn of the impending post.
- You tell your friends to delete the picture of you’ll have to get a parent involved.
Now let your teen make a choice between the responses without feeling judged or directed. You want the response to be as honest as possible.
Here are some discussion points you can use to lead the conversation after the choice is made:
- Internet safety (the Hot Buttons Internet Edition will be available 6/1. It will offer much more help in talking about this issue with your teen.)
- What is online bullying?
- What could happen with a posting of that kind?
- Discuss suicides that have been attached to scenarios like the one described above.
- Discuss the family rules and set new ones if necessary.
- Brainstorm various responses.
- Talk about different safeguards that are in place and ask for suggestions for new ones.
- Pray together for wisdom and safety.