Have you ever imagined having your own superpower? What would it be?
Recently, a classroom of children was asked this tantalizing question. Their objective was to focus on one of their talents and develop that into a superhero character. Their amazing powers ranged from being a great hockey player, to sounding out words, and caring for animals. Each child had something unique and positive to offer during the assignment. It was a great reminder for the school community that everyone has value and talents.
Unfortunately, this lesson isn’t always taken to heart by the student body. Lately, the evening news has been filled with negative headlines about online harassment. Why is cyberbullying so prevalent and what can we do to stop it?
Cyberbullying by the numbers
Here are just a few current statistics about today’s children and cyberbullying:
- 62% of children have witnessed cyberbullying
- More than 1 in 3 young people have been threatened online
- 1 in 10 teens have embarrassing or damaging pictures taken without permission, often with cellphones
- 25% have been victims of cyberbullying
- 90% of children will not inform an adult about when cyberbullying happens
Cyberbullying is a real threat that faces all children, but it is in the makeup of a bully to seek out the vulnerable and innocent. This can be especially devastating when a child already has difficulties in social settings. Many of these children retreat to the online world and relish the safety barrier sitting behind a screen can offer.
Although a computer doesn’t judge- it can open up a child to a real life digital villain- the cyberbully.
TIps to bully proof your child
Children with special needs or those who can be placed on the spectrum, need to be taught how to maneuver technology safely. Many children might not have the interpersonal skills to understand personal boundaries or teasing. Parents need to step up and actively monitor their child’s online activity to keep them safe.
Here are a few suggestions to help protect children from cyberbullying:
Leaping beyond cyberbullying
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where superheroes can leap over buildings, run faster than a locomotive, or swing around the city on webs to rescue our children from danger. Parents and educators need to don those capes and fill the roles that protect our youth from real online threats.
Just like comic superheroes, people have weaknesses and their own forms of kryptonite. Actively monitoring and guiding a child through the obstacles of the cyber world will empower them to forge ahead and develop their unique gifts and talents. It is always better to prevent a problem then learn a pricey and hard lesson. Don’t let cyberbullying bring down another child.
The next time you doubt your abilities as a parent, remember that everyone has a super power to offer the world and you can be your child’s unsung hero.
Amy Williams is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. She believes that, in our digital age, it's time for parents and educators to make sure parents and students alike are educated about technology and social media use, hoping to inform others through her writing.