There’s a common trope in film and television, possibly even one you’ve witnessed in your own life. An older person looks over the state of the world and says something that starts with “back in my day…” Usually whatever follows talks about how much harder life was when they were young, and how much better off the people living and growing up in these modern times are.
Well let me tell you something (and you, in turn, can tell your parents something): you may not have had to walk to school the snow, uphill both ways and without shoes, but parental control in the modern era is much harder.
This is because of the Internet; kids have access to a worldwide wealth of information, whether or not they are ready to see it. The popularity of smartphones means that all that knowledge is tucked away in our kids’ pockets, away from our watchful gaze and our wise explanations. And the constant connectivity to peers through social media means that our kids are never free from the cruel reach of bullies.
In fact, you may have experienced some scrutiny yourself. You share a photo of your child on social media, only to be scolded over the snack in her hand or her little bare feet on the sidewalk. “Mom-shaming,” as it’s come to be called, is one of the many blemishes on the generally great world of social media. As we allow people into our lives through sites like Facebook and Snapchat, we also allow them to share their opinions with us – the good and the bad.
But you are an adult. Sure, someone’s comment on a picture of your kid with a face full of cake might get your blood boiling, but you have the maturity and self-assuredness to shake it off. But remember years ago, when you weren’t an adult? When you were an insecure kid still trying to find yourself? Imagine the weight of that constant scrutiny (coupled with the cruelly creative imaginations kids have), and you might begin to understand what we’re dealing with.
Cyberbullying is a growing crisis among young people. It has crushed the self-esteem of countless kids and teens, and in the most extreme cases even led to suicide. What’s more, reports show that only 1 in 10 children will tell an adult about the abuse they’re suffering. Instead, they absorb hurtful words, rumors swirling among their peer group, even damaging images that could haunt them for life, and we are none the wiser.
As a parent, it is important that we model kind, ethical behavior in our encounters online, and watch for signs of cyberbullying in our children’s lives (whether they are a victim or a perpetrator). Also, when we are aware of cyberbullying in the lives of our children or others around them, it is critical that we step up to stop it.
Perhaps you’re wondering, “How am I supposed to stop a mean kid behind the computer screen?” Well, get talking – to talk with other parents, school administrators, even law enforcement if necessary.