Bullying Can Expand Online

Bullying Can Expand Online

Parenting may be the most important job in our society, even though it is an unpaid position. It brings opportunities for parents to grow, learn new things, and develop wonderful relationships with their children; but it also brings challenges, frustrations, and fears for the safety and well-being of those children. These days social media is extremely important in the lives of our children, especially teens. It is scary for parents because neither teens nor parents can control what happens on social media, and teens just do not understand all the possible consequences of what they post on social media sites.

The days when parents provided privacy for kids are history. Now teens can “webcam” friends right into the house. This allows them to interact live online with friends–and with strangers– without parental knowledge. It is startling to learn that hackers can use malware to get into your computer operating system and actually take pictures of you or your child, using the webcam on your computer, possibly without anyone knowing. Using this, someone could watch every action in front of the computer.

Cyberbullying is the repeated use of technology to harass, humiliate or threaten. This is done mostly by teenagers who are not fully aware of the consequences of their online actions. Regardless of actual behavior, others may post things online, labeling a girl as “slut” or “bitch,” or labeling a boy as “gay.” These actions are destructive, whether they are true or not.

Nearly every teen has a cellphone or small computer with a camera. Teens like to “capture the moment” without getting permission from the people involved. It is important to know that a file remains, even on websites that say the image will disappear. Like spoken words, they can’t be “put back into the tube” after they are posted.

Nothing breeds irresponsible behavior like anonymity. Thousands of applications (apps) are available for electronic devices; some promise anonymity. Teens are realizing that Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are public; parents and colleges can see what they post there, so they go to apps. Twitter has “subtweets” where teens can use codes only “insiders” know, making it difficult for adults to track. There are online sites “below the surface” that are harder to track. Students who are victims of this slander carry deep hurts that can be hard for adults to help. For more information see the article, “Exposed” in the Spring, 2014 issue of Teaching Tolerance at www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-46-spring-2014

Abbreviations are important in online communication. Some that help young people hide what they are doing from parents are: CD9-Code 9, means parents are around; KPC-Keeping Parents Clueless; MOS-Mom Over Shoulder; P911-Parent Alert; PAW-Parents are watching; PIR-Parent in Room. You can find these and more at www.netlingo.com/top50/acronyms-for-parents.

A basic value of mediation is respect for people with whom we disagree. It is essential to respect people of all ages, cultures, creeds, and colors, and to model respect in our behavior and speech. Children, parents, teachers, and all other people deserve respect.

Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has trained mediators available to help people work through strained family relationships, disputes with neighbors, contractors, landlords, and other conflicts for an economical fee based on income. If you would like more information about mediation, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County, 717-334-7312, mediationac@yahoo.com on line, or the website, http: //www.mediateadams.org. Mary Kay Turner is a teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member of MSAC.