We talk a lot about cyberbullying – on this site and to parents directly. Our articles and conversations typically focus three aspects of the online variety of bullying – how to tell if your child is a cyberbully, how to identify whether your child is being cyberbullied, and how to deal with it as a parent if either is occurring.
Let’s take a step back and look at what drives a child to become a bully in the first place. Some bullies might be born that way, but others’ bullying tendencies might be a product of their environment growing up. As a parent, being aware of probable motivations can help you stop it from happening or catch it early.
Home environment – Agreeing with this will require some introspection, but if bullying (or something that feels like bullying) is a frequent occurrence in your home, your child is learning that this is at least somewhat normal behavior, and is more likely to be a bully outside the home or online. We not just talking about older siblings bullying younger ones here – the perceived bullying that could be influencing your child’s behavior could be parent on child. While we are not telling you how to raise your kids, if angry, aggressive reactions by people of influence are seen to be the norm, it could very well have an impact on a child’s behavior.
The media sets a bad example – Of course, we live in an era of too much media. It feels like every action of the rich and famous is being posted to the internet or other media, and once there is fair game for professional and amateur journalist to criticize or ridicule. If Miley Cyrus puts on a ridiculous display at some event, members of the press are sure to pillory her behavior and brand her a slut or someone of questionable character. That behavior is not going away any time soon. You want to make sure that your kids don’t think that treating their peers in a similar fashion is in any way acceptable.
The need to be popular – Let’s consider why this younger generation is using social media in the first place. The quick answer is often that they are using it to connect and communicate with friends, but often what they are doing is building their personal brand. How do they measure their brand’s value? Popularity. What’s the easiest way to grow your popularity? Being funny, notorious or scandalous is usually more effective that just being a good person. If you’re doing so at the expense of others, you may be able to grow your circle of friends and admirers, but you’re having a very negative impact on another human being.
Personality issues – Since we are not psychologists, it’s tough for us to add much on this one, but the fact of the matter is that some kids have a tough time getting along in society. They may be prone to inappropriate actions or reactions in social situations that may or may not be bullying. If a child’s interactions at home are inappropriate at times, parents should pay closer attention to their online activities, as similar behavior is probably showing up there as well.
Naturally, we encourage parents to be at least somewhat aware of what their kids are doing online. Keeping an eye out for situations that makes kids more likely to bully could put parents in a better position to get involved early.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.