When silence is the opposite of golden

iStock_000015365712_ExtraSmallI don’t want my kids on social media. Ever.

I know this is a fantasy and that I must evolve. I’m sure I will. Plus, I don’t want to be the hypocrite that I’m feeling like right now.

But cyberbullying terrifies me. It happens more and more these days and has real, detrimental, and sometimes fatal, consequences.

It’s too easy to type hateful words when you’re not face to face. But words shared on the internet, on social media spaces? They.are.forever.

No matter what. Do not be fooled.

And you would think one could just ignore such nonsense from obviously disturbed and mean hearted people.

But it isn’t.

Last year I found myself tangled in an onslaught of online hate speech, threats, and humiliation.

For an article I wrote.

I write about children’s health and parenting as you know. Apparently, nothing could be more volatile.

It still makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. And the plain hard truth is…I had my brush with cyber bullying.

But when you are on social media and write publicly, you are vulnerable to it and you just never know when it might come your way.

I thought I was immune to it. I had toughened up in my first year of blogging and writing publicly. Negative comments no longer bothered me. I got it. I knew how it worked and I was willing to forge on. Rise above the fray.

But cyber bullying is different. It’s a direct and concerted personal attack on you. It makes you feel unsafe. It’s humiliating.

And here I am, an adult in my late 30’s. I certainly thought I could side step, or at the very least, ignore, incredulous and vile verbal attacks aimed at me.

You could call me weak.

Or you could just call me human.

Because words hurt no matter who you are or who they’re coming from.

And though you know better, you cannot unread what you’ve read about yourself.

Imagine what a teen still navigating the unsteady social waters of high school would feel like.

I actually cannot imagine.

In fact, I cannot imagine being a teen or college student today with the immediacy and permanency of social media.

Add bullying to the mix, and it really is a potentially explosive combo.

It’s why I tell all parents of tweens/teens how important it is for them to be where their children are online. You just have to. Make it a rule and have an agreement before they join spaces such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Make it clear, that your goal is to keep them safe, not violate their privacy.

Counsel them on social media manners. Like not making fun of, saying hurtful things to, or spreading rumors about someone online. Encourage them to speak up when they see or are a target of online cruelty.

Many teens are too embarrassed to tell anyone what’s happening to them. So they stay silent…until they just can’t handle it anymore.

Empower them by not being afraid to discuss it yourself. Teach them what they can do if it ever happens to them. Take screen shots and send them to you right away so you can help put a stop to it. Tell them that being silent is the worst thing they can do and that silence gives bullying more power.

Remind them that they are not alone. Unfortunately, it happens and is happening to too many kids today.

Cyber bullying has real and lifelong consequences if not addressed immediately.

It’s disheartening to say the least how easy it is to remain anonymous, personally attack another person, and move on as if nothing ever happened.

Because to the person on the receiving end of that hate…moving on can be a painful and dark road.

This is indeed a brave new world when it comes to technology, our teens, and parenting. It’s why I do often wish social media spaces like Facebook were off limits to kids until they were well into adulthood.

But we’re here for better and for worse. We need to be right there with our kids, helping them navigate these social media spaces with respect and caution.

And please, more than anything, remember this…

…when it comes to any kind of bullying (online or in person)…silence is the opposite of golden.

More on teens and social media:

4 reasons why social media age limits matter

Social media etiquette for parents

Be cyberinformed about cyberbullying

Why snapchat is dangerous


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5 Responses to When silence is the opposite of golden
  1. Polly@ChildPsychMom
    February 27, 2013 | 5:01 pm

    Love the idea of teaching your kids to take a screen shot of something (or someone) that is bothering them! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Katherine
    February 28, 2013 | 6:05 am

    I’m already nervous about letting my kids on social media, because of all the questionable material they could be exposed to. The thought of it as just another ground for bullying is even more terrifying. We’ve already had the talk that they will not be allowed any social media (or personal electronic device) until they are at least 13. And I still reserve the right to push that date back. Even if I earn the title of meanest mom.

  3. Janet Dubac
    February 28, 2013 | 6:36 am

    Very good article. We should do something to help stop bullying whether it is in person or online. You are right that we should encourage our kids to speak up when they are being bullied or they see a victim. Bullying will not stop unless you report them and we should not feel embarrassed by this at all.

  4. Laura
    February 28, 2013 | 3:56 pm

    Melissa, I can’t say, “Yes!” enough! As a mom, as a teacher of high school students, “Yes.” Teens are too embarrassed to talk about such things, and we do need to be real with them so they will. We need to teach them how to use social media and how not to. Wonderful, much-needed post!

  5. Kelly
    March 3, 2013 | 5:20 am

    Great post. I’m also terrified of my children using social media when they get older. Thanks for the ideas!