Parent Newsletter Support Information:
·      Bullying defined: an act of aggression, coercion or intimidation, either physical or verbal, that intends to cause harm or invoke physical, psychological, financial or social power over another.
·      Test your knowledge about cyber bullying:
  •   Your sophomore daughter see’s a Tweet that links an image of two fellow students kissing with the caption: “Opposites attract, LOL!” Bullying? Y or N
  •  Your high school Junior son receives a text with a picture taken of a group of freshman students sitting in a circle on the grass talking with the caption: “Open campus FAIL!” Bullying? Y or N
  •  Your freshman son receives a FB notice that he was mentioned in a comment. The comment was posted on another friend’s page and it states “Never in a million years!” Bullying? Y or N
·      Every example above is a potential case of bullying. Why? Because each case has the power to cause harm or attempts to invoke social or psychological power over others. How? Read on.
·      Social power: an individual or entity’s ability to influence the perception, ideas or actions of a group. Each example has the opportunity to do just that, and to do so in a negative way, which is why each of the examples while appearing innocent or silly can cause significant harm in the mediation of social power among youth in their social environments.
·      Psychological harm: negative and self-loathing conscious thoughts triggered by a verbal or physical action or experience. Each case above has the potential to cause psychological harm by presenting ideas and perceptions of individuals in negative, de-valued and unworthy frames of reference. Complicate that by doing so on a social platform with unlimited distribution within arenas the individual is associated with and the potential for psychological harm is compounded by the depth and breadth of sharing.
·      Where’s the line between playful banter and cyber bullying? It boils down to the relationship dynamics of the individual’s involved, the idea that is being presented in the content in question and the impact on the individual at the receiving end of the cyber activity.
·      Close personal relationships have history in developing accepted and normative practices amongst themselves along with experiential knowledge of how the person responds to different activities. Acquaintances or disconnected individuals do not have this reference and therefore their actions and statements can and usually do become misunderstood which can result in unintended harm or negative influence.
·      So sorry to tell you, there’s no black and white. It’s all about relationships, intentions and impact. This is where the tough stuff of being a parent comes into play.
·      What can you do to prevent your child from engaging in, perpetuating or responding to cyber bullying? Here’s some practical action steps:
  • Determine your parenting philosophy about your child’s cyber activity including social networking, email communication, cell phone and digital communication pieces and what you believe your role and responsibility as your child’s parent is.
  • Make the decision to engage your child in cyberspace and become an active part of their online identity.
  • Be in the KNOW. Request access to your child’s social networking sites and be willing to fight for your child’s cyber security. Children are children, and it is better to be nosy than to find out your child is contributing to or being a victim of cyber bullying and dealing with the complicated aftermath. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Have the hard talks. Sex, racism, discrimination, poverty, abortion.  These are not the easiest or most comfortable topic discussions to have with your children. Determine to be the primary influencer in your children’s development and understanding of how to think and feel about these complicated issues. By inserting your influence into your child’s development it will give them a base reference to build their evolving ideas and ultimate belief system about these choices and experiences. Our digital age has added to the difficult discussion topics and now we must include social power and cyber bullying. Thanks Bill and Zack!
  • Educate yourself first. There are resources listed at the bottom of this newsletter that provide links to digital education courses parents can take to discover strategies and tactics to working with your children in navigating these complicated social dynamics.
  •  Enroll your child. Don’t talk with food in your mouth and use your napkin to wipe your mouth we teach as eating etiquette. Say thank you to others and hold the door open for someone carrying a baby we teach as social manners. Do not use LOL when communicating with your teacher, do not use vulgar language when describing the actions of someone you are only acquaintance’s with are digital communication and social networking etiquette we must teach as important life skills to our children.
  • If you suspect your child is perpetuating cyber aggressive or socially demeaning activities, find out. Examples exist in our culture with tragic consequences that unknowing parents had children engaging in these activities that resulted in serious harm to others and now their child and their families are living with these devastating outcomes.
  • If you suspect your child is being harassed, bullied or targeted by harmful digital communication and cyber activity, find out. DO NOT wait until the affects of such activity causes your child psychological harm which can result in thoughts of suicide, serious bouts of depression, social and familial withdrawal and isolation, self-harm through eating behaviors, cutting, sleep deprivation or escapism through substance use, sexual acting out or physical and verbal aggression and violence towards others.
Resources for cyber parent education and youth support: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Federal Government’s Department of Justice join forces to provide resources and information to parents and children age 5-17 about cyberethics, netiquette, discussion topics and statistical and research based findings on current trends and happenings to stay up-to-date with the digital evolution of cyberspace. National Crime Prevention’s cyberbullying website that identifies and provides practical support in understanding, preventing and addressing cyber bullying among youth and school aged children. Local counseling services by licensed professionals that provide supportive and understanding help to children, youth and families within our community. Online Christian 24/7 live chat counseling by trained professional’s that will provide encouraging and Christ centered support for anyone seeking answers to life’s complicated questions. Supported by Calvary Los Gatos, founder Sean Dunn is a youth activist dedicated to fighting the negative social trends individual’s experience in today’s complicated lifestyles and encourages the development of meaningful relationships to provide support and encouragement to successfully navigate life’s ups and downs.

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