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A Faceless Crime

One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking scenarios for a parent to experience is the bullying of their child. Add the internet to the equation, and bullying becomes a formidable foe for any parent trying to protect their child’s happiness and innocence. With the advent of Myspace, Twitter and the almighty Facebook, the internet gave bullies an anonymous avenue in which to attack others. Cyber bullying can take the form of a fleeting post for others to see, or it can be tenuous ordeal which may lead to a heartbreaking outcome. There is a shocking growth in the consistency of national news stories where children are taking their own lives in reaction to bullying. The battle against online bullying is especially troubling to parents of the current generation as it is in an unfamiliar realm. Although there are a fair amount of parents who are literate in these online sites, there are many others who struggle. This article was written in hopes of educating parents both in the warning signs of cyber bullying and in ways to help their child deal with it.

1)      Be aware of your child’s mood – In many cases, the first indicator that can clue a parent into a bullying problem is a marked change in their behaviors and moods. Parents often dismiss child mood changes as just being another symptom of teenager-hood, but there could be a cause for the mood discrepancy that’s more concrete than teenage hormones. Have conversations with your kids, especially if you see changes in their mood.

2)      Keep an open line of communication – This is often an underrated aspect of identifying the issue at hand. Being available for your child to talk about what is bothering them will undoubtedly expedite the process in identifying bullying troubles. It goes without saying that teenagers are tough to talk to and can shut down easily, but reassurance that you are a sounding board for any issues they are having will help.

3)      Educate Yourself – One of the biggest issues parents face in dealing with cyber bullying is ignorance around social networking and other online aspects of a child’s life. This is not to say that parents must create a Facebook account and maintain it with the religious intensity that their teens do, but increasing awareness is always useful. Parents should be aware of how these websites work, and, if possible, have a way to keep tabs on their child’s activity. This point needs to be clarified: although parents have every right to monitor their child’s activity, it is a lesson in trust that makes it effective. Parents know best about their child, but if they prefer their privacy, be respectful of that and keep online interactions to a minimum. Keep the requests of bags of seed for you farm to your friends and let your child have their own space.

Now that you have identified that bullying is an issue for your teen, how are you going to help them through it?

1)      Always take the high road – Bullies are looking for a reaction, and when they get one, they will continue to exploit it. If you or your child is being bullied take what the bullying is saying with a grain of salt and ignore it. Like a hungry animal, once bullies realize they won’t get what they are looking for, they will usually move on.

2)      Never retaliate – It can be easy to think of a great dig for that short kid in chemistry class who posted that you smell like a bag of week old hot dogs, but it only hurts the situation. Responding to a bully not only keeps the cycle alive, but responding can easily turn from defense to bullying in return. Don’t stoop down to their level; remember that you are the victim.

3)      Always save incidences of bullying – The one good thing about cyber bullying is that it leaves a trail. It is important to make note and save the bullying incidents as they can be presented to authorities later on.

4)      Go to the authorities – With the recent increase in awareness of cyber bullying most schools and organizations have procedures in place to stop bullying. Let the teachers and authority figures utilize their training and put the ball in their court.

5)      Be thankful for what you have – In most cases cyber bullying is rooted in the insecurities of the bully. Bullies see what another kid has and attack them in order to make them feel better about themselves. It is important to not lose sight of what you have because it is often what causes you to be a victim. Bullies try to make strengths into weaknesses in order to brighten their outlook in their own mind. So the next time you have an issue with a bully, remember that it probably has way less to do with your 4.0 GPA and way more to do with their 1.3.

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