In today’s world of social media, children are dealing with less face-to-face bullying and are dealing with more cyberbullying.
To help educate and empower educators, parents and their children, the Mitchell County Bridges Mentoring program, through funding received from the Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County, sponsored a workshop on cyberbullying presented by Sara Broers.
Broers resides in Mason City and has over six years of experience of being involved in social media, working with industry experts on the subject of cyberbullying and bullying.
She is the owner of Social Connections, LLC and regularly blogs at “All in An Iowa Mom’s Day” and “Travel with Sara.”
“There many good and many ugly things happening on social media,” said Broers. “Our children are not experiencing the ‘traditional’ form of bullying anymore.
“We need to be aware that it’s happening with iPhones and tablets.”
Broers gave several examples of cyberbullying including from sending mean email messages, and taking unflattering pictures of people and posting them through social media, to sexting – sending sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person online.
“Our children need to have the confidence to report when something happens,” she said. “Train your kids to band together to support each other.”
She then gave a list of anonymous phone applications parents should be aware of on their child’s cellphone.
Those apps included Ask.fm, Yik Yak, Kik, Snapchat and Secret.
“Remember, if you are paying for the phone, you own the phone, not your child,” said Broers. “If they participate in cyberbullying, you are going to be held responsible.
“You need to know how the apps work.”
Anonymity is the worst part of the use of apps, said Broers, making it difficult to find the actual bully.
She added tips for parents and the workplace.
“Be careful what you post while at work,” she said. “Posting comments about your place of work or co-workers could cause you to lose your job.
“Even passing on a joke that you think is funny, may not be funny to your employer.”
Broers then asked the question, “Why do people cyberbully?”
“The answer is simple, so they can remain anonymous, so they can teach others ‘something’ or their ‘agenda,’” she said. “Or, for revenge, for power or for entertainment.
“Technology has changed everything and there is a generational gap on what we should or should not be posting on the Internet.”
Ignoring is the best solution, said Broers.
“Bullies are just looking for attention. Don’t give it to them.”
Other suggestions included record, document, reach out to someone, and stop all communication.
“The most important thing is to not sink to the level of the bully,” said Broers. “And especially don’t believe what you are being told about someone else.”
Being nice to others, connecting with positive role models on social media and encouraging niceness are three things Broers said we need to encourage our children as well as ourselves to practice to rid the Internet of cyberbullies.
“We have to find someone to help us,” she said. “You won’t be able to do it alone.”
Quoting Dr. Michele Borba, expert on parenting children and tweens and adolescent parenting, “The best way to be a parent online, is to be a parent offline.”