Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on July 23rd, 2018, 0 Comments

Cyberbullying Rarely Brakes for Summer

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place electronically – through email, a chat room, texting, an instant message app, or a website. Nationwide, nearly 15% of high school students say they were bullied online during the last 12 months, according to a report just released by the CDC. At the middle school level, nearly 25% of students say they’ve been bullied online. And the actual numbers may be much higher because this type of thing tends to be underreported.

Cyberbullying can be relentless, affecting many teens on a daily basis. And sadly, it rarely brakes for summer. Instead, with more time on their hands, those doing the bullying often put the pedal to the floor.

Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics include:
– Posting mean or hurtful comments about someone or posting an embarrassing picture or a video
– Creating a mean website about someone
– Pretending to be someone else online in order to shame or embarrass them
– Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves
– Doxing (short for the word “documents”) someone by making their personal information public

Being bullied can impact a teen’s overall happiness and wellbeing. It can increase the likelihood of anxiety or depression and increase the risk for suicide related behaviors. It can negatively affect their relationships with peers and family members and disrupt school performance by cutting into their motivation.

Teens who witness bullying are affected too. These teens often report feeling guilty about not confronting those doing the bullying or supporting the one being bullied. They too are more likely to develop mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

Try This
Talk and listen. Start a conversation with your teen about what cyberbullying looks like. Talk about the risks to all those involved – even if your teen claims they already know. Try to listen as much as you talk. But be clear about your expectations that they 1) not post anything that could be hurtful to someone else and 2) refuse to pass along any hurtful messages that others have shared with them. Also assure your teen that you are there for them, making sure they know they can come to you with any concern.

Be alert. Many teens won’t tell their parents if they are involved in cyberbullying. They may be afraid of the response they’ll get – including the fear that their devices will be taken away. So it’s part of your job as a parent to be inquisitive – even nosey, paying special attention to how your teen behaves when using their electronic devices. Be watchful for these warning signs:
– Noticeable increases or decreases in their electronic device use
– More emotional responses (anger, tears) to what is happening on their device
– Hiding their device or screen when others are around and being unwilling to hand it over when asked
– Shutting down social media accounts or opening new ones on their device
– Avoiding social situations they’ve enjoyed in the past
– Change in mood – withdrawn, depressed, anxious or often angry
– Change in behavior – especially in sleep patterns or in grades at school

Calmly speak up if you sense trouble. Try to stay clam as you ask questions to determine what is happening, how it started, and who is involved. Of course, you’ll be upset. This is your kid – and they may be hurting. But getting upset or reacting in anger will make it more difficult for your teen to talk to you about the issue.

Together figure out the response. Work with your teen to define a plan for moving forward.
If your teen is being bullied:
Document. Keep a record of what is happening and when. Print copies or take screenshots of harmful content if possible. Most policies and laws define bullying as repeated behavior, so records help document the pattern.
Report. If a classmate is cyberbullying, talk with your teen about options for reporting it to the school. You can also contact social media platforms to report harmful content and have it removed. If your teen has received physical threats or if illegal behavior is occurring, contact the police.
Support. Strategize with your teen for ways to avoid engaging the one who is bullying them, including blocking the individual. Be available to listen and guide, reinforcing that you are there for your teen and helping them find ways to insulate themselves from the hurt. Don’t blame your teen for being bullied. Even if they have made unfortunate decisions that have aggravated the situation, no one deserves to be bullied.
Monitor. Keep an eye on things to determine if additional support is needed from a counselor or mental health professional.
If your teen has witnessed someone being bullied: Help them come up with some safe ways to offer support and standup for the person being bullied. Peers can sometimes positively influence the situation by posting positive comments about the teen targeted with bullying. It can also help to reach out to the teen being bullied to express concern.

Bottom Line
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying. Make sure your teen knows that you take all forms of bullying seriously. If you notice warning signs that your teen may be involved in cyberbullying, take steps to investigate their online behavior.

If cyberbullying is happening, address it the same way you’d address other forms of bullying: by supporting the teen being bullied, addressing the bullying behavior of a participant, and helping teens who’ve witnessed bullying find safe ways to try to support the teen being bullied.

Next Up
A future post will take a look at the other perspective: what to do if you learn that your teen has been bullying others online.

Report Cyberbullying
Five Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying by Rebecca Lacko
Measuring Bullying Victimization, Perpetration, and Bystander Experiences

Click to access BullyCompendium-a.pdf

Cyberbullying Tactics

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 2nd, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 16, Connection Lost

Claire Uses the Internet for Everything

The Framework
Tonight Claire is out of town on business, but thanks to the Internet she’s staying on top of things at home: She buys a last minute birthday gift for Mitch from She helps Alex proof her college essay. And she exchanges text messages with Phil while looking at Luke’s new Mohawk on FaceTime.

But perhaps nothing reflects the “modern” in Modern Family better than the way Claire responds when Haley goes missing.
Claire (on cellphone): I can’t get in-touch with Haley. I haven’t talked to her since we got in that fight. She around?
Phil: I think she slept at a friend’s house.
Claire: What friend?
Phil: Umm … not a normal name. Starts with a vowel. Possibly foreign.
Claire: Maybe Alex knows. Is she home?
Phil: Nope. I haven’t seen her for hours.
Claire (Calling Alex on FaceTime): Hi, honey … Can you do me a favor and call your sister? If she’s screening, I’m not making the cut.
Alex: Why don’t you just snoop on her Facebook page with your fake profile?
Claire: I don’t have a fake profile.
Alex: Mom, save it. Brody Kendall just logged in.
Claire (gasping as she sees Haley’s “married” Facebook status): Oh, my God! Please tell me this is some kind of a mistake!

Later there’s this.
Claire: Do you have Haley’s iCloud password?
Alex: Yeah, she gave it to me in a little envelope with her diary key and a list of things she’s most afraid of.
Claire (sighing): Maybe we could guess it …
Phil (popping up on Claire’s screen): Claire, you accidentally hung up on me.
Claire: Yeah, well, honey, you know me and computers.
Alex: Mom is trying to guess Haley’s iCloud password, which, personally, I think is an invasion of her privacy.
Phil: Try “password.”
Claire (after typing it in): I’m kind of glad that didn’t work.
Alex: Well, I think I remember telling her to use something that people wouldn’t know about her – like her favorite literary character.
Claire: I’m in.
Alex: What?! What was it?
Claire: Snoopy.
Alex: Wow. And that could be your new nickname.
Instantly, Claire clicks “find my phone” in Haley’s account.
Claire: Oh, no! She’s in Vegas!
Phil: Are you serious?!
Claire: Hang on. I’m zooming in. Hold on. Hold on. Oh, God! Honey, she’s at a wedding chapel … Who could she be marrying?

And at the end of the episode, after Haley is located, there’s this.
Claire: So you didn’t get married.
Haley: Married? Why would I get married?
Claire: Because you changed your Facebook status to “married,” and then we tracked your cellphone to a wedding chapel in Vegas.
Haley: Wow! First of all, it’s called privacy. Google it. Second, I married a Cronut.
Claire: What?

Haley: Last week, my friend and I went to get Cronuts, and I said they were so amazing I wanted to marry one. So I posted it on Facebook as a joke. Then I accidentally left my phone in Andy’s car – which he drove to a friend’s wedding in Vegas…

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
While tonight’s episode felt a bit like an Apple infomercial starring Claire, it also reflects the way we live now: online. Like Claire, many of us are using smartphones, computers, and tablets to manage our family lives and monitor our kids.

Online safety experts advise us parents to stay on top of things. Because the online hazards are real. But as we saw with Claire tonight – even when you have all of the latest gadgets and apps at your fingertips – it’s really easy not to know what’s going on. This is especially true if you have a savvy, creative teen intent on you not finding out.

In fact, most kids can find ways to get around our investigative methods. After all, it’s easy for a teen to erase a browser history or clear certain sites they’ve been to and keep others.

Yes, there are software programs designed to help us parents keep and eye on our kids’ online activity. Some will even send an alert to us if language or photos in our teen’s networking activities suggest there might be trouble. But these can give us a false sense of security. Just Google “bypass internet filters” and you’ll see what I mean.

Haley: How did you get onto my Facebook page? I unfriended you.
Alex: She’s Brody Kendall.
Haley: Oh, my God! Gross! I’ve been playing Candy Crush with my mother. How did you track my phone?
Claire: I don’t think that really matters. And there’s a perfectly reasona … (pretends their connection is being lost):
Haley: Oh cut it out. I can see people walking behind you.

Trying to outsmart a teen when it comes to technology is usually futile. And surprise snooping on their phone or Facebook page like Claire did tonight doesn’t usually turn out well either. It’s a lot like looking in their book bag or searching their bedroom behind their back. You may find something critical to their safety, but this kind of snooping destroys trust. (For more on how to snoop when you feel that you must, click here.)

What’s a Mom to Do
Our best hope of protecting our teens from the online hazards we’re most concerned about are the tried and true parenting strategies we use to protect them from other hazards. The same three, simple rules (Be safe. Be respectful. Be in contact.) we use for other areas of their lives work online too. Each has a purpose that’s easy for us to explain and for our teens to understand.

Be safe online. Most teens underestimate bad consequences online – just as they do in the real world. Be safe online is about helping our teens stay away from things on the internet that could hurt them – especially cyber-bullying, sexual predators, and pornography which are three of the biggest online safety risks to teens. (For more on helping your teen stay safe online, click here.)

Be respectful online. Teens may be anonymous or disguised online which may make them more likely to make rude or cruel comments or to share inappropriate pictures of others. It might also lead to them sharing pictures of themselves they later regret.

Be respectful online is about helping our teens protect their online reputation.
If they wouldn’t say it, show it, or do it in person, they shouldn’t do it online.
Teens need to know there are no take-backs on the internet. Even after they delete what they say or do, it can usually be retrieved. (For more on how teens can protect their online reputation click here.)

Be in contact about online activity. There are things in our teens’ online world they’d rather we not know about because they fear that we’ll interfere with their fun. Just like in the real world. So be in contact about online activity is about having regular conversations with our teens about where they’re going and what they’re doing online. And it’s about our teens letting us know right away if something unexpected or threatening happens so that we can help them plan how to deal with it.

Today’s technology makes information available in ways that our parents could never have imagined. But as Claire learned tonight, it doesn’t necessarily make us moms better at monitoring or managing problems. After all, without the Internet that let Claire see Haley’s Facebook status and track her phone to Vegas, she’d have probably had Phil check Haley’s room first thing – where he’d have immediately found her sound asleep.

Your Parenting Experiences
Are you friends with your teen on Facebook? Do you use a fake profile like Claire did? If you saw something that concerned you on their page, how would you address it?

Sources and Resources: “Should You Monitor Your Teen’s Online Activity” and “Four Dangers on the Internet” on WebMD; “Protecting Your Online Identity and Reputation” on KidsHealth

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