Discussing cyberbullying with your children and other childrens parents conversation starters

Weve talked quite a bit on this site about the need to be proactive in engaging in conversation with young people on the issue of cyberbullying, online safety, and digitial citizenship.  Yet we also know that oftentimes those conversations are not easy it is hard to know where to start, when to start, what to talk about, and so forth.  We know that it can be tempting to leave those conversations for another day, or not to have the conversation at all (afterall, the topic must be covered at school, right?).  And what about if you need to talk to the parents of a child you think might be engaging in cyberbullying behavior?  How to do that without it becoming horribly confrontational?  Never fear here are a couple of conversation starters put together by some of the leading experts in the field of online safety which we believe you will find very helpful.

Need to talk to your own children about cyberbullying but not sure how best to do that?

Then take a look at the conversation scripts put together by the team of Hinduja & Patchin.  The first Cyberbullying Fact Sheet-  is designed for Parents to Promote Dialogue and Discussion  with teens but could easily be adapted for use with younger children.  This script provides a useful definition of cyberbullying, which in and of itself can be a great starting point: What do you think constitutes cyberbullying?  Is is the same as what your child thinks is cyberbullying?  Ask them about this and youre already on your way with the conversation.  The script covers the topics of cyberbullying on social networking sites, via email, and cell phone text messages and does so in a realistic, non-confrontational, helpful, youth/parent empowering manner.

The second script Cyberbullying Scenarios: Educating yourself and others about cyberbullying provides ten different cyberbullying scenarios to read and discuss with parents, educators, or youth.  We think these make great discussion starters with young people because it allows them to put themselves in the shoes of someone else – a school guidance counselor, parent, teacher, sibling, adminstrator, etc. – and think of how that person might best respond.  It is sometimes less stressful and more productive to think of how someone else might respond rather than have the focus being on how YOU might respond.

What if you need to talk to the parents of a child who is/might be engaging in cyberbullying behaviors?

We know that this scenario probably creates anxiety for many parents/caregivers.  What if I lose my temper with them?  What if they lose their temper with me?  We certainly understand the anxiety: Confrontation is difficult for most of us.  Thankfully, as part of her blog in response to the recent New York Times article (Online Bullies Pull Schools into the Fray), Rosalind Wiseman has provided a script for parents of a cyberbully target to reach out, in a calm and thoughtful way,  to parents of a child who may be engaging in cyberbullying (we need to remember that the bully is not always who he or she seems to be so it is not a good idea to go charging in with all guns blazing).

We know that, as with cyberbullying prevention efforts, there is no silver bullet or script that will provide a 100% guarantee of success.  These conversations may not be easy and may not go quite as you hope.  Dont get disheartened, however.  What is important is that adults and young people keep trying to engage in a respectful, calm dialogue about these issues.  Scripts such as those created by Hinduja & Patchin and Rosalind Wiseman provide a great starting point for ultimately more meaningful and mutually satisfying intergenerational communication on this important topic.

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