Many articles being written lately are suggesting that parents are the missing piece in solving the cyberbullying puzzle. What they are suggesting is that communication between parents and their children is often too many times missing. Parents need to truly get involved in “cyber” discussions with their children. We need to take the initiative to dialogue on “cyber” issues that our children are engaging in. The following questions and strategies will help parents initiate and sustain conversations with their children.
Initiating Conversation Questions
All questions are asked from parent to child
- “If I was to spend an hour a night online, which sites do you think I would enjoy going to?”
- “Can you show me how to get to the site?”
- “What sites do you enjoy visiting?”
- “What is your favorite site to go to? How often do you go there?”
- “What sites do your friends enjoy going to?”
- “If I wanted to play video games online, where would I go?”
- “What are your favorite video games to play online?”
- “What do you think my user name should be?”
- “What is your user name you use with your friends?”
- “Is there anything I should worry about when I am online?
- “Have you ever been worried about anything when online?”
- “Have you ever had a friend worry about something when online?”
- “What would you do if someone approached you online that you did not know?”
- “What should I do if someone approaches me online that I do not know?”
- “Are there sites that your friends go to that they probably should not?”
- “Have you ever witnessed someone being cyberbullied while online?”
- “What did they say?”
- “Did anything happen to the person?”
- “Have you ever been cyberbullied?”
- “What do you think needs to be done to address cyberbullying?”
- “What can I do to make you feel comfortable to talk to me about threatening situations that might happen while you are online?”
- “If you were ever threatened while online, what would you do?”
- “What do you think about the two of us sitting down once a week to talk about things that you experience while online?”
Sustaining the Conversations
The preceding questions will help initiate communication between parents and children. Although it is an important step, simply initiating communication is not enough, sustaining communication and making it a habit is critical in our efforts to address cyberbullying. The following strategies can be utilized to sustain consistent communication.
- Cyber Chats – Establish a time where you can sit down with your child and have discussions on cyber issues. These “cyber” chats should be implemented on a weekly basis and should focus on any situation that might have come up in the last week. These situations could create dialogue on personal issues as well as issues seen in news media. Use this time to establish a communication line between you and your child that they can depend on. You will find that this weekly communication will develop trust between you and your child and over time that trust will become the catalyst to exposing critical issues they experience when online.
- Personalized email addresses – Create personalized email addresses that are to only be used for you and your child. These email addresses will not be shared with anyone else and will only be used for private communication between you and your child. Explain to your child that they can email you anytime they want and express how they are feeling. The only person who will read this will be you and your child. Use these email accounts to send positive comments to your child and let them know you care about them.
- Cyber Projects or Games – Spend time online together with your child. This could be as simple as playing games together. Remember not all gaming online is bad. Find some positive time together online where you can learn from your child what is going on. This time together will not only develop your online skills but more importantly will create moments for discussion on online situations. This will create an opportunity for you as the parent to model the behavior that is expected online. To know what is going on in the cyberworld, we must get into the cyberworld.
- Instant Messaging Account – Set up an instant messaging account for your child to contact you when needed. This is to be established as a casual communication tool and not one for an emergency. Instant messaging is not always on and should not be relied on to send an emergency message. Instant messaging is a great tool to communicate casually when you can.
- Situational Practice – Create time to practice together how you would respond to a threatening situation when online. Create a fictitious scenario that you and your child can go through together. Example, if your child was online and they saw a friend being cyberbullied, what could they do? Have them go through the steps in how they would respond this threatening situation on their friend. This practice will develop both you and your child’s skills to responding to these online interactions. This will also expose any gaps that might have gone undetected. These practice scenarios should be implemented once a month.
As stated earlier communication between a child and their parents is the most important factor in establishing a safe and secure online environment for our children.
There is not a secret formula that will guide us to effective communication. Simply spending time together and engaging in conversations will lead to effective communication with you and your child. Understand that we are all different and our kids are all different, use strategies that work for you. What may work for your neighbor may not be what works for you and your family. What is important though, is that you spend time together with your child in conversations. By not spending time together will leave our children vulnerable to situations they may not understand how to handle.
For breakfast I had a fine balance of Waffles and Coffee!
Author: John Vandenburgh