I volunteer weekly as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, a free 24/7, confidential text message service for people who are in crisis. People in crisis can text to 741741 and be connected with a trained crisis counselor who will assist the texter to achieve a sense of calmness through active listening and collaborative problem solving.
During my shifts on the Crisis Text Line, I engage with people of all ages who are experiencing a wide variety of stressful situations. But a large number of people who text in are children and teens who are experiencing feelings of anxiety and despair due to cruel comments on their social media platforms.
Now that it is common for children as young as 8 to be given their own cell phone and access to social media, the need for education about cyberbullying is essential. Parents should start this conversation with their child on a very basic level, and as their child matures, the conversation can go deeper.
Teach your child the basics of texting:
DO re-read your words before you hit “send” to male sure it says what you want it to say. DO only send a message that you would want to receive.
DON’T hit “send if you would be embarrassed if anyone saw your message. DON’T hit “send” if your message is mean or full of gossip or rumors. DON’T hit send if you know you could be in trouble for using swear words.
If your child is being harassed or cyber-bullied, offer support and assistance. I suggest the following approach:
Explain to your child that there is no need to keep mean texts, or the sender’s identity, a secret. Explain that all texts are public and the sender chose to send the text knowing full well it could be viewed by many people. Show your child how to make a copy of the texts to possibly share with law enforcement or school. Empower your child to block the sender so he or she can no longer be a bother. Empower your child to hit “delete” if there are further emails from annoying people. Let your child know that he or she has power and control over his or her phone and does not have to answer or return phone calls or texts from people he or she doesn’t like.
Teach your child that the golden rule applies to all phone use whether it be texting, instagram, or gaming online: treat others the way you want to be treated.
And advise your children of these words to live by: Nothing is private anymore. Your texts and photos will remain forever for everyone to see.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your child’s use of social media and would like to talk further about issues involving cyberbullying, please call me at 310-849-6751 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here to help!