Most parents hope their children are kind to others, even to children they may not like. But still, many kids and teens (and even adults) end up victims of rude or mean comments, or even bullying.
The consequences of bullying are far-reaching, even leading to suicide or self-harm by the victim.
One mom is speaking out, pleading with parents to not only monitor the way their kids are using smartphones, but to also teach them empathy after her daughter ended up hospitalized as a result of bullying.
In a Facebook post, she writes: "Our beautiful girl has been subjected to some awful bullying at school. It's been a very private 7 months for us, dealing with this, immediate family only.
"In this age of social media, children (because they are children) think it's ok to send hateful messages (to me also along with their parents who won't take responsibility) without consequences. I've had calls from these children calling me an old hag because I've defended our daughter, approached parents and pleaded with them to talk with their children and ask them to stop. I've even approached the children themselves, but been threatened by parents with harassment."
She further explains that not only have parents been non-receptive to her pleas, but the school has done little to curb the problem. Her daughter has been self-harming as a result of the ongoing bullying, which often occurs through social media via smartphones.
The world has become a different place over the last ten years. Most kids have a smartphone-- and are still learning appropriate behavior versus inappropriate behavior. It's easier to type on a computer or into a smartphone something mean to someone than it is to say it in person. Hiding behind a screen can give a false sense of power over another person. Kids are not yet mature enough to consider the repercussions of saying cruel and hateful things to another person via their smartphone.
Teens tend to gang up on one person and band together in their cruelty.
If your child has a smartphone and/or social media accounts, it's your responsibility to monitor what your child is saying to other people and what is being said back. Is your child bullying someone else? Are they being bullied? If the answer is yes, you must take action to stop it. Besides bullying, there is major concerns about sexting and sending pornography in texts or through apps.
If your child is using social media and smartphones to make bad choices, you need to work to teach them what is and is not acceptable behavior. Set up consequences and follow through. Does that mean losing smartphone privileges for a short time or longer period? Do other restrictions need to be set up? Do they need to apologize to another person for things they have said or done? Follow through and be firm.
Some children naturally have empathy, others must be taught. If your child is hurting others, try asking them how they'd feel in the reverse situation-- were they are on the receiving end of bullying. Try to help them see how what they say or do can affect others and how it can hurt them. Help them set up ways they can show more kindness and empathy to others outside their social circles, such as finding those who need a friend or sticking up for someone who is being bullied.
Whether your child is being bullied or doing the bullying, teaching children to value themselves can go a long way. If a child knows they are valued and can respect themselves, they are less likely to harm someone else, and feel less need to put someone else down to seemingly elevate themselves.
Additionally, a child who is sure of him or herself will more readily be able to withstand the ill effects of bullying. They'll know others' opinions and words do not affect who they are. Self-worth starts at home with loving parents who strive to be compassionate and not critical.
Parents, watch out for your kids. Yes, we need to teach them independence and to stand up for themselves, but they still need our help and loving guidance to navigate many situations. If your child is using a smartphone or social media to hurt someone, make them stop it immediately. If your child is being bullied, reach out and find ways to help them heal and put a stop to the bullying. All kids need to learn empathy and kindness. Help them develop these qualities as well as strengthen their self-worth.