It is unbelievably easy for kids 8-18 yrs old to fall victim to what we call "Social Media Group Think," where one child's opinion or actions quickly becomes the prevailing action of many. As a result, an unstoppable rumor can develop causing pain and devastation. Kids will tell you: "I got wrapped up in it- I did not mean it," or "It all happened so fast," and yes, "It seemed right then."
It can happen in a nanosecond. Social Media Group-Think becomes online bullying. One child using very poor judgement. Another child with grudge. A third child has anger issues. All share one thing: none of them have fully developed judgement systems.
Which is why, as a parent, we must understand this fact and compensate, everyday.
We truly believe that the vast majority of parents are really "good parents." However, even good parents forget their role in monitoring activity online.
Preventing Kids Group-Think On Social Media
- Always ask your child to "friend you" on any social media account they have
- Require they share the password with you
- Don''t sneak and look at their accounts, be honest and let them know you will be looking at it intermittently
- Coach them on dangerous discussions and share ways to either avoid or step in to defend the victim safely and effectively
- Share the ill-effects of sharing inappropriate or inaccurate statements on line and how it ruins lives, literally- provide examples
- Provide boundaries and limits in terms of actions and time on social media
Addressing Social Media Group-Think Bullying
- Always encourage your child to share discussions on social media that look problematic with you
- If your child sees a rumor, inaccurate statement or "mean-talk", have them alert you immediately. Discuss the best way to stop this issue: 1. Making a clear statement rebutting the issue. 2. Buffering it with humor 3. Ignore it ( only do this on the first episode and only if it is minor in nature -- never ignore if it is egregious or ongoing in any way) 4. If it is the least bit inflammatory, as a parent, consider posting a statement indicating you are the child's parent and that while the statement may not have been intended to be cruel, it was and it needs to stop online, in person and everywhere. Ask for apologies.
- Keep online and hard copies of the incident and document (even the first episode).
- If the issue recurs: address with the school (many schools will not intervene however), address with the parents respectfully and calmly (but be direct).
- Email the superintendent and school board if the school administration will not help
- If it continues, go to the local law enforcement office or county-level (frequently if the local police do not have a cyber-bullying unit, the county will)
We have many other solutions in our book, "When Your Child Is Being Bullied:Real Solutions"
See www.amazon.com or www.solutionsforbullying.com for a copy of our book.