Lori Getz: Even with recent cyberbullying-related suicides receiving national attention, teens continue to use the Internet to harass, embarrass and even make threats against peers!cyberbullying now ubiquitous in the lives of teens? I sat down with more than 100 seventh graders to talk about it. Here's what they said:
â€˘ "It's anonymous; you can say what you want."
â€˘ "You don't have to look the person in the face to see how they might react."
â€˘ "Anyone can be a bully online ... you can even bully the cool kids."
â€˘ "You probably won't get caught."
All of these points resonated with me, but the last one stuck out like a sore thumb! Kids don't believe their online behavior matters. It's because there is a lack of supervision that they feel they can get away with it. I asked them about "parental interference" and what would make a difference in curbing cyberbullying behavior. The answer was unanimous: If the cyberbullies thought that their parents, teachers or possibly law enforcement would find out what they were doing, they would stop!
We constantly remind our kids to chew with their mouths closed, take their elbows off the table, be respectful of others and look both ways before they cross the street. These issues are easy to parent because in the middle of dinner, as you see the etiquette-crime being committed, you can gently remind them of the offense and correct the behavior. It is much more difficult to teach online manners because they happen without us being in the moment. But manners -- both online and offline -- begin at home.
We need to find ways to talk to our kids about their behavior, and explain to them that it DOES matter. We also need to remind them of the fact that we are NOT out-of-touch parents, and that we do understand a thing or two about what they're doing online (even if we have to fake it).
Kids need to stop thinking of the Internet as the Wild, Wild West, where there are no rules or consequences for their actions. Online, there are both.