Bullying comes through many venues – the classic image is a gang of thugs gathering behind the gym at school, but the truth is that many bullies have moved to alternative forms of attack like social media, public message boards, and text messaging. The last of these is most common and today we’re going to take a look at the best ways of responding to any kind of aggression and ridicule sent through texts.
There are several factors that can make text bullying more damaging than traditional bullying for both the victim and the bully:
- It can happen 24 hours a day, even at home, which is usually a refuge from bullying, so it can feel inescapable.
- Text bullies are often much meaner because they don’t have to see their victims.
- The victims may not know who is sending the text messages, which can be frightening.
- Teens may think text bullying is anonymous and that they can’t get caught. They also may use someone else’s phone to send the messages.
- Victims often respond by sending mean messages back to the bully, becoming bullies themselves.
Discovering The Problem
Most kids are intensely private when it comes to their technology – they have no desire to share their private communications or let you know when anything is wrong, and like many cases of bullying, children are often unwilling to call attention to it. They may be afraid of retaliation or being thought of as weak, so it’s up to parents to take the initiative when it comes to detecting the bullying.
There are two fairly reliable methods of doing this:
- Method one involves paying attention to the child’s behavior. If they’re happy and having fun when they get home, but come down worried and upset ten minutes later, then there’s a good chance that they saw a message of some kind that bothered them. This is a warning flag and should prompt a discussion about what’s upsetting the child.
- Method two – and the more reliable way of discovering the problem – involves monitoring the child’s text messages. This can be used separately or in conjunction with method one – quickly glancing over the recent messages for signs of bullying is an excellent way of monitoring the situation without intruding too far on the child’s privacy.
Dealing With Text Message Bullying
The best method of dealing with bullying via text message is ignoring it. Bullies want to provoke a reaction, and nothing will make them happier than getting a response demanding they stop.
Text messaging is, by its very nature, a delayed response. There’s no instant gratification of seeing another child afraid, and no way to escalate things when the bully wants to do so. The upside of this is that bullies will quickly get bored when they don’t receive a response, though they may send increasingly frequent (and crude) messages in a desperate attempt to provoke a response of some kind.
There are cases of cyberbullying which caused teen to take their own life – it’s in the news and it is scary. Any parent may be tempted to take away a teen’s cell phone to prevent text bullies from harassing a victim, but this deprives teens of social connections that are very important to them. Fear of losing their phones is a major reason why teens don’t report text bullying. There are, however, other ways that parents can help combat the effects of text messages from bullies:
- Talk to your kids about text bullying and why it is wrong. Tell them if they ever are the victim that it’s not their fault and they won’t be punished.
- Help teens block numbers that are sending mean text messages.
- Tell teens not to let anyone else use their phone to send messages.
- If the text bullying is serious, contact the cell phone company to get the teen a new phone number and have the teen be very careful about who they give it to.
- If the teen knows who the bully is, let the bully’s parents know what they are doing.
Despite examples on the news, warnings, and tough consequences, bullying will never completely go away. As parents, we need to constantly be aware of popular apps and websites that are popular with teens. The more we monitor what our children are doing with their cellphones, the safer they will be.
The most basic impulse of parenting is to make sure that children are safe. Ironically, in our culture of constant checking in, selfies, status updates, and tweets, ensuring our children’s online safety can feel more complicated than ever.
Recent studies show that 78% of teens now have a mobile phone, almost half (47%) of those own smartphones, and over 90% of teens have access to a computer or have one of their own. With all of this access to technology that changes on a dime, how can parents monitor their teens without crossing over into spying on them? Does privacy exist for teenagers, and does online monitoring cause teens to lose trust in their parents?
Before addressing the sticky subject of teen privacy within a family unit, it is essential for all teenagers to understand that privacy, while a privilege, does not exist online or anywhere else, for that matter. Regardless of where we go and what we do online or in the physical world, we are observed through a variety of tools, such as security cameras, traffic cameras, internet records, mobile phone records, what comes in the mail, credit card purchases, social media sites, and GPS devices. And even though we believe that certain information can be deleted, that is just not true when it comes to our online reputations.
This is a hard lesson that teens need to learn as soon as possible: If it is online, it is forever, even if they think there is privacy.
The Difference Between Monitoring and Spying on Teens
This hard lesson is partly why parents are so concerned about their children’s behavior online, but the fact remains that teens require the chance to be independent, show responsibility, and experience privacy as they develop into adults. Monitoring software such as Safe Lagoon, can be added to teens’ smartphones and other devices by parents as a preventive measure, offering protection against people who want to do their children harm.
The best way to monitor kids of all ages is to keep talking with them, no matter how difficult it might feel, especially with teens. Open communication is the key when it comes to monitoring online behavior and helping parents keep teens safe. Monitoring is a form of – and adds to – open communication between parents and teens, allowing them to cooperate in an increasingly noisy and busy world.
How to Talk to Your Teen About Monitoring Software
When talking to your teen about online behavior, it’s good to begin with statistics:
- On average, teens spend 5 hours and 38 minutes online every day
- More than half of teens have witnessed cyberbullying on social media.
- Out of over 1300 teens surveyed, 18% have considered meeting with someone in person whom they first met online. Of these, 58% have actually met up with someone in person.
- 15 percent of teens admit they have hacked into a social network account.
- In 100% of the cases teens that are the victims of sexual predators have gone willingly to meet with them.
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly.
Your teen probably doesn’t realize what’s going on in the world outside of themselves. Also, share some stories you’ve read about recently that concern you. Teens need to hear examples of what other teens have done and the consequences of their choices. Even as adults, we learn from others mistakes.
Parents may decide for their child’s safety monitoring software would give them peace of mind. If you do decide to go this route, it is important to give your child a heads-up before you do. Again, you may discuss the statistics, the stories, but mainly your concern is for their safety. Explain to them that you are not spying on them, and you want to make sure they are not putting themselves or their family at risk.
We all want that ideal, picturesque relationship with our teens. We all want to avoid dealing with their bad attitudes and senseless behaviors. Part of us would love to just have them skip their teenage years and go straight into adulthood. The thing is we know that can’t happen and really we don’t want to miss out on any part of their growing years. And fact is teenagers are good at drama. While they are reacting negatively to being monitored, secretly, I’d bet they are thanking you for caring so much about them. It’s simple. We need to open our eyes and be the parent! And remember that Safe Lagoon is always ready to give a helping hand!
-based on TeenSafe publication