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The Obamas Tackle Cyberbullying and Urge Parents to Take Responsibility

by Jeana Lee Tahnk


The Obamas Tackle Cyberbullying and Urge Parents to Take Responsibility

Today, at the White House, President Obama and the First Lady are holding a Conference on Cyberbullying and converging with parents, students and teachers to discuss how we can all play a part in its prevention. With the number of tragic suicides in the past year and the need to bring more visibility to this epidemic, it’s about time that bullying of all forms be given the proper authority and treatment it demands.

Today, at the White House, President Obama and the First Lady are holding a Conference on Cyberbullying and converging with parents, students and teachers to discuss how we can all play a part in its prevention. With the number of tragic suicides in the past year and the need to bring more visibility to this epidemic, it’s about time that bullying of all forms be given the proper authority and treatment it demands. 

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teenagers. More alarmingly, the Cyberbullying Research Center conducted a survey of 2,000 teenagers and found that nearly 20% have seriously considered suicide as a result of being cyberbullied. As a parent, that truly frightens me. My children are too young to be engaging with technology in that way – but I know that cell phones, Facebook, text messages and many more advancements are in their future. We all can play a role in curbing and eventually eradicating cyberbullying. Although that seems like an incredibly lofty (and unrealistic) ambition, it behooves us, for the sake of our kids, to try our damndest. 

The President and First Lady posted a video on Facebook (below) announcing the Conference and address the impetus for this gathering and the responsibility we have as parents to make sure our children treat each other with respect. President Obama states, “For a long time bullying was treated as an unavoidable part of growing up, but more and more, we’re seeing how harmful it can be for our kids, especially when it follows them from their school to their phone, to their computer screen.”

Cyberbullying isn’t going to magically disappear, but with increased awareness on all of our parts and more concerted efforts on a higher level to educate our children, we can raise our kids with a better understanding of what it means to be responsible digital citizens. 

The Conference will take place from 10:30 AM – 3:00 PM EST and can be streamed live here

If you have kids who are old enough to fall victim to cyberbullying, ConnectSafely offers the following tips for parents and their children:

  • Don’t respond. If someone bullies you, remember that your reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants. It gives him or her power over you. 
  • Don’t retaliate. Getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression.
  • Talk to a trusted adult. You deserve backup. It’s always good to involve a parent but – if you can’t – a school counselor usually knows how to help. Or see if there’s a way to report the incident anonymously at school. 
  • Save the evidence. The only good news about digital bullying is that the harassing messages can usually be captured, saved, and shown to someone who can help. Save evidence even if it’s minor stuff – in case things escalate.
  • Block the bully. If the harassment’s coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments, use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it’s in chat, leave the “room.”
  • Be civil. Even if you don’t like a person, it’s a good idea to be decent and not sink to his or her level. Research shows that gossiping about and “trash talking” others increase your risk of being bullied. 
  • Don’t be a bully. You know the old saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes; even a few seconds of thinking about how another person might feel can put a big damper on aggression.
  • Be a friend, not a bystander. Forwarding mean messages or just standing by and doing nothing empowers bullies and hurts victims even more. If you can, tell bullies to stop, or let them know bullying is not cool. If you can’t, try to help the victim and report the behavior.

 

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