Bullying has taken on a whole new meaning in the past decade and the conditions have changed. The weapon isn’t a fist or a bat it is the cold heart and unrelenting mouth. The phrase sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me – no they actually hurt you so deeply – they can kill. Point in case, a young girl in Texas had peers create fake profiles set up in her name on dating sites giving graphic descriptions of her name “for a good time”. The young girl was bombarded with so many inappropriate calls and emails to the point where she took her own life. These peers thought this was a good “prank” – no this was cyber bullying.
Young people don’t have the fortitude to deal with this. Bullying used to stop at the park or after school now it follows you home it’s in your computer/phone and won’t leave you alone. The demographic of the audience has changed it used to be one on one and now it is open for the public. Parents and caregivers need more reminders and tools to help them combat.
Here are some helpful tips to combat cyber-bullying:
1. Always talk to your youth about the importance of knowing who he/she is and talk about the perils of social media including bully examples
2. Teach them how damaging “made up” stories or distorting the truth can be. This is not a minor “distortion’ and can get out of hand very quickly.
3. Let them know everything they see on TV and social media isn’t real. A lot of young people believe everything they see to be real.
4. As parents/caregivers we need to make sure we know what our children are exposed to. Sit down and watch the TV show they are watching with them and ask questions about the topics discussed in the shows to see the perspective of your child.
5. Know your child’s social media group: look at their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts on a regular basis. You will meet resistance but who is paying for their phone/computer access? In most cases not your child.
6. Know who your child is “hanging out with” after school and pay attention to changes in your child’s appearance, attitude and disposition.
7. Teach them how to stand tall in face of adversity by listening closely to what they are saying and seek help from authorities at school or in the community if you feel threatened in any way.
8. Remember bullying happens in all socioeconomics and demographics – it is not the under-privileged – it can happen to anyone.
I have raised at-risk youth in my home for over 15 years and when we talk a lot. We talk about how telling lies can be just as harmful as hitting someone with a baseball bat. The visual works. I teach the youth to listen to what their peers are saying about each other (not just them) because “out of your mouth the heart speaks” – if someone is unkind chances are they can be the same to you. Remember, a bully is only as powerful as you let him/her be.
Lori Hoff is the CEO and founder of OMI (Outreach Ministries Inc) a nonprofit helping at risk youth OMI is leading the first National Youth Week for across the US on June 13th. Hoff also just released: and author of Teen Code: A Rock-Star’s Life. Hoff was the Board chair for Big Brothers Big Sisters and established a food pantry for the working poor in Middlesex County. She also worked with the State of NJ as a therapist for at-risk youth helping them to stay in school and become productive members of society. Along with her nonprofit work she is also a full-time Manager in the Technology And Engineering space for AT&T in Dallas, Texas and was the National Mentoring officer for Women of AT&T for 4 years. A Native of Washington, NJ, Hoff graduated from Calvary Theological with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ministry, and earned a Masters in Child and Adolescent Therapy from Cornerstone University.