As the youth development coordinator at Children’s Health Education Center, I work with teenagers who, on a regular basis, remind me that I am not as tech savvy as they are. In fact, I’m not even close. I don’t even deserve to shuffle their iPods.
Changing your status on Facebook or posting a blog on MySpace, while as ubiquitous to teens as pep rallies or skin cream, can present unforeseen dangers. Bullying happens in every school and at every level. However, unlike other forms of bullying, cyber bullying can prove to be more mean-spirited and dangerous because it is likely under the radar of school officials and parents.
Oftentimes, a teen’s friends are the first to know that something might be wrong. Some of the possible warning signs that a teen might be a victim of cyber bullying are: dramatic mood changes, excessive anger, loss of interest in things they enjoy, changes in behavior – like use of alcohol or other drugs, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and poor concentration in school.
As adults, we need to become tech savvy in order to protect our children from online bullies. Checking your child’s Facebook account is a reasonable and an effective way to prevent unhealthy online relationships. Better yet, create your own profile and send a “Friend request” to your teen. I know for a fact they can help you with this task, they walked me through it!
If you are not familiar with the work of Teen Health Crew, they are an amazing group of kids. They are community teens who receive training from CHEC that prepares them to co-teach health education programs during the school year with one of our educators. Topics they talk to their peers about include: self-esteem, bullying and healthy decision-making. There also are bullying prevention resources for parents, teens and teachers on our Web site (www.bluekids.org).