So, what’s a parent—or child—to do if bullying has reared its ugly head in your lives?
If your child has been the target of a bully, it’s important to come up with ways that your child can face the bully, Bhargava says. Those responses will depend upon the intensity and severity of the bullying. “Sometimes, you do need to get the teacher or principal involved. You need to explain to the child why,” she says.
Confronting the bully alone directly typically isn’t the right way to go, Mote says, but she adds that role playing with a parent or friend can help build assertiveness. Then, a child may be able to approach a bully while accompanied with a friend. But Mote add some caveat: The targeted child should not say that the bully hurt her feelings.
That only gives the bully that coveted power once again.
Parents can also make changes around the home to keep their kids safe. Griffits likes to remind parents to get involved with their kids’ lives and be available to them. That could mean nosing around in their lives—literally. He says it’s important to let them know that you’ll be searching their room, cell phone or computer. Too many youths think they’re entitled to privacy in their homes, and parents tend to support that idea.
That’s nonsense, he says. “The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects the general public from the police,” he says. “Parents, that doesn’t apply to you. I try to dispel that notion. There are no privacy laws for kids from their parents.”In spite of all he’s seen on the job, this father of seven embraces technology and urges other parents to do so as well. But, he says, there are small changes you can make to ward off bullies and to keep your own kids from bullying tendencies themselves.
First, he says parents should utilize their server provider’s monitoring service. For example, make sure text messages or photographs sent from your child’s phone are automatically forwarded to your computer or cell phone via e-mail. “That’s going to curb (bad) behavior a lot,” he says, adding that if your service provider doesn’t offer such a service there are third-party providers and software that will.
Next, Griffits says parents should give their child’s cell phone a curfew.
Every night at, say, 10 p.m., make sure their phone is turned in to you and keep it on the charger in your bedroom all night. He’s also a huge proponent of letting a pre-teen, or older child, have a Facebook page or other social networking presence. Doing otherwise is inviting trouble, he adds.“I think it’s unwise not to allow it,” he says. “If you disallow it, there’s so much pressure. Either they’re going to have a friend make one or they’re going to have one, one way or another.”
Again, just make sure you monitor the page and computer use. At his own home, Griffits says underage computer users don’t have the password. So they can’t boot up whenever they feel like doing so; they must ask permission first. Another tact he and his wife have taken is to come up with 10 family values that the kids need to memorize.
At any time, he says, the kids should be able to talk about any of the values, which may in turn be used to remind the youngsters how to use technology properly and safely. One of the Griffits’ values, for example, is virtue. That could lead, he says, to a brief discussion about how one should keep words and
thoughts clean when going online.
“Use every chance you can to talk about important things that are important to your family,” he says. So, come up with your own family values or tenets, Griffits says, and give it a try. After all, talking with your kids is one of the best ways to keep bullying at bay.