In a culture of online hate, having the skills to combat cruelty and harassment isn’t a small task. From cyber-predators to sexting scandals to slut pages – young girls need to be empowered and equipped to know they are never alone in today’s virtual playground. Here are five strategies to teach your girls to stand up to cyberbullying.
- Being a cyber-mentor. A study reveals that cyberbullying is more common between friends (current or former) than strangers. So it’s high time for teens to become “cyber-mentors” for each other. Through cyber-mentoring, a girl can feel encouraged and empowered to make a real difference online. This is also important when they are feeling pressured online or in conflict and may not want to go to their parents. As much as we have preached to our children to tell a trusted adult, studies reveal many turn to their peers if they are being harassed. It’s important they talk to someone and that person is a cyber-mentor that knows to tell an adult.
- Quality over quantity. One way to reduce your risk of cyberbullying is to weed out your friends list. Girls are quick to consider how many LIKEs or friends they have verses the quality of people they have in their circle. The old cliché — you are who you hang with, is not only true, it can land you in troubled waters if one friend turned foe lifts a image and quickly turns it into a mean meme. Make it a habit not to friend every request you receive.
- Sharing too much. According to a UCLA study, people who overshare are less likely to receive empathy or help if they are victims of harassment. With or without this study, everyone needs to pause before they post, send an email or text. Consider the long-lasting impact. Fifteen minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of humiliation.
- Building digital resilience. Generations earlier we were taught that words would never hurt us, today we know differently. We must remind our girls that the bullies on the other-side of the screen are usually suffering too. Bullies can sometimes be victims in other ways in their home life. Helping our girls know that the online hate is not personal can take some of the sting out – and build compassion towards others that are hurting.
- Saying no to nudes. Sexting might be the new flirting but we must empower our girls to know it’s okay to say no when they are constantly pressured to send sexual images. In Shame Nation we discussed one of the largest sexting scandals that happened in a middle and high school in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Peer pressure can be difficult — in a 2015 survey of teens by Dr. Englander 70 percent of sexters felt coerced to send the sexual image. Sexting expert, Dr. Michelle Drouin shared in Shame Nation that parents need to give their girls a way out. They can tell whoever is asking that their parent monitors all their activity and if they are caught they will lose their phone. As one teen said in my book, we also have to start telling boys to stop asking for them. Hear, hear!
For more information on surviving, preventing and overcoming digital hate, order Shame Nation book from your favorite online bookstore. Note: Enter our End of Year raffle and a chance to win a signed copy of Shame Nation by donating $250 or more here.
Sue Scheff is a nationally recognized author, family internet safety and parent advocate who founded Parents’ Universal Resources Experts, Inc. (P.U.R.E.) in 2001. She has been featured on 20/20, The Rachel Ray Show, ABC News, Anderson Cooper, CBS Nightly News, Katie Couric, Dr. Phil, CBC, CNN, Fox News, BBC, NPR and others discussing topics of Internet defamation, cyberbullying, cyber safety as well as her work helping troubled teens and their families through her organization.