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Eliminating cyberbullying: What a caring mother can do

Mothers nurture. It’s part of their basic makeup as a person and, when it comes to taking care of teens, they can’t help but do just that. Cases like that of Amanda Todd and Audrie Pott have left mothers frantically trying to ensure their own teens stay safe. As the digital world continues its expansion, the bad grows with the good. Cyberbullying is no small problem, and teens that are safer are ones whose parents are prepared to take a proactive approach.

Dr. Justin Patchin, an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, in a recent interview with MobiStealth spoke about the dilemma parents face when they try to tackle cyberbullying. One of the problems is that the primary red flags for cyberbullying are really just the hallmarks of adolescence, i.e. abnormal behavior. What mothers need to do is sift through the weird and find out what’s wrong with their teens before a manageable situation gets out of control.

Today, says the cyberbullying expert, figuring out if your teen is being cyberbullied is a very tricky task. Mothers might wonder how they can effectively observe online behavioral patterns when they are often excluded from their teens’ social networking activities. However, what they can monitor are their teens’ external behavioral patterns. For example, if your teenage daughter was logging in to Facebook for three hours a day and now avoids it like the plague, or if she texted a lot and now doesn’t want to touch her phone, then you should talk to her about what's wrong.

In most cases teens don't speak up because they feel adult involvement will only make things worse. However, teens who are victims and vulnerable need someone to give them support. Bullies are not monsters. In most cases they are kids who don’t know any better. Parents and teachers have to make sure that the bullied know they have people they can lean on, while simultaneously ensuring that the bullies are sensitized to the harm they’re doing. Mothers can actually reach out to other mothers and create collaborative efforts at educating kids.

Often mothers don’t realize the long term impact that something like this can have on their teens. And at this point in time it is true that cyberbullying hasn’t been around long enough for its long term impact to be measured. However, the impact can be predicted based on the classic long term effects of playground bullying, i.e. low self-esteem, anger, frustration and suicidal ideation.

At home and school, teenagers should be encouraged to reach out to an adult who they trust if they feel that something is weighing them down. Talking about real-life incidents where teens sought the help of an adult to put a stop to cyberbullying and harassment can also be a great tool to help teens speak up about their problems.

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