I wouldn’t like to be a teenager in this day and age. Social media has such a huge impact on their lives and there’s no place to escape it. All teenagers want to fit in, so telling them they can’t have social media doesn’t work. Without it they are left out and ridiculed. With it, it’s harder to keep them safe. Plus if you forbid them, there’s nothing stopping them from going behind your back.
It’s also made bullying a lot worse. When we were younger our homes became our escape. Once our front door was closed we could escape from the name calling and the threats. We could forget about the outside world and feel safe.
Nowadays, teenagers don’t have that luxury. Thanks to social media, our homes are no longer a refuge. Bullies can still get to them, get into their heads and make their lives worse.
When my daughter asked if she could have social media account, we sat down and discussed it with her. We asked her why she wanted it and she explained about her friends and how she wanted to stay in touch with them. Especially as we don’t live in the same town as her high school.
After chatting with her and making sure she understood exactly what she was getting into. We then sat down and made rules, rules designed to keep her safe online.
- She is not to be friends with, or talk to, anyone she doesn’t know in real life
- She is not to post any pictures of her school uniform or recognisable backgrounds including her school or logo
- She is not to share where she lives
- I know her passwords and can check her phone whenever I want. This means I can check her privacy settings
- Her accounts are to be private
- She is not allowed to block us and she must be friends with us so we can see what she’s posting.
- If anyone sends her anything upsetting or disturbing or nasty, she is to screenshot it and bring it to our attention straight away.
These rules have helped keep her safe. I also switch the internet off at the same time every night to their devices, another way to keep them safe.
We have had a few issues where someone has upset her. She has had people tell her to kill herself on Minecraft, but she knew to take a photo and to report them to the game. Then she came to speak to us and we talked through what she was feeling and what she could do to keep herself safe. Luckily she is a sensible girl.
The worst has been in chats with friends. Just the weekend she was getting abuse and threats from another girl in her class. Sadly, this was all because Becky was obeying the rules we had given her.
It seems this girl has a European boyfriend and she added him into a group chat with Becky and her friends. Becky knew she wasn’t allowed to talk to people she doesn’t know in real life, so she politely asked him to leave. The next thing she knew she was getting all sorts of nasty messages from this girl who was threatening to beat her up. Obviously, she was very upset and scared to go to school on Monday.
I took her to school on Monday and we went to speak to her teacher. Thankfully the school were very helpful and most importantly they asked Becky what she wanted to do about it. Being listened to and not blamed was very helpful and she decided to go to class and see what happened. She was worried that the teacher speaking to the girl would make it worse. She was just happy that the teachers were aware of what was going on and if things became worse, she could go speak to them.
What I really liked from the school, was that they didn’t brush it off. Saying that because it happened outside of school, then it wasn’t the school’s responsibility. They took it seriously and reassured Becky that they were there if she needed to chat.
Bullying isn’t going to go away unless we teach our children to deal with it. Bullies are found everywhere, not just in schools but the workplace too. If a child doesn’t learn how to deal with bullies whilst they are in school and supported by parents and teachers, they’re not going to be able to deal with them in the workplace.
By bullies, I mean the name calling that children often engage in. I don’t mean the severe bullying where a child fears for their life. In those situations, I would certainly get the police involved. However, helping a child deal with minor bullying situations, helps them feel empowered. It also helps them open up and talk to you if bullying gets out of hand.