Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Cyberbullying Story

I try to make it a habit of presenting YouDiligence to at least one school or church organization every week. Last week, I spoke to the PTO of Fairfield (outside of St. Albans). It seems like at every one of these presentations, I hear a cyberbullying story. In fact, one of my primary tasks at all of these meetings is to just listen. Kids' online activity raises a lot of uncertainty for parents.

It is hard enough dealing with uncertainty for just oneself. When one's kids are involved, worrying over uncertainty goes to a whole other level.

At the meeting, a woman said she had really wished that she had known about YouDiligence two months ago, and she related the story of how her daughter was recently cyberbullied. Her story had all the classic aspects of cyberbullying that I have heard repeatedly in different forms and shapes. The mother noticed that her daughter had been moody and uncommunicative for weeks and weeks, and knew something was up, but the daughter did not want to share. Finally, the cyber bullying episode reached a point where the daughter broke down, and realized she could not control the situation. This is when the mother got involved. The mother did not share the exact specifics, but she felt that much pain and suffering would have been spared if she could have stepped into the situation much earlier.

And that is a very important point. Kids in their tweens and early teens are struggling with issues of control and mastery. And parents want to encourage this mastery--we are proud of our kids' mastering skills and knowledge growth. But the truth of the matter is that young kids should 'be spotted', and in fact, they want to know that their parents are doing so. The tricky part of adolescence for both kids and parents is navigating this path from very dependent (under 10 years old, and wanting to be spotted) to ostensibly independent (hopefully by 18-19, and resentful if parents are still trying to spot them).

When considering kids' online activities in terms of this navigation path, it is entirely understandable why internet safety has become the number one concern for parents.

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