"They cropped me out of the group shot and posted to Instagram."
"I sent him a picture of myself that I never expected him to share, and he forwarded it to all of his friends."
"She took an embarrassing photo of me and snapped it to everyone at school."
"He started a new group text with six of our friends and purposely didn't include me."
"I woke up and saw someone made an anonymous Instagram account with all of these embarrassing Photoshopped pictures of me."
"He roasted me on YouTube."
"She said no one likes me because I don't get as many likes as her on Instagram."
Bullying today isn't what it used to be. I work with schools around the country to coach tweens and teens on social media use, and these are just a handful of the heartbreakingly real situations that kids have shared with me.
How can something so small — like a phone — chip away at the emotional stability of millions of teenagers? When you take the normal teenage brain and add quantified measurements of the pressure to be popular, cell phones that can screenshot, and anonymous apps, well, that’s a recipe for trouble. Social media has made bullying faster, easier, and more anonymous. Yikes.
The toughest realization as a parent? One teenager told me that being bullied is almost a "rite of passage" as you are going through 5th, 6th, or 7th grade. It's not a question of if your child will be bullied. It's a question of when.
Scary stuff, to be sure. But there's a silver lining. What if you could proactively equip your child to navigate negative scenarios positively? It can be done. In fact, it’s being done at schools around the country.
With October being National Bullying Prevention month, here are four simple steps to empower your child no matter what social media scenario they face. Just like we teach kids to Stop, Drop and Roll as a fire safety technique, we can teach our teens to Stop, Block, Screenshot and Talk to combat cyberbullying.
1. Stop – Stop and take a breather. Resist the urge to react with a mean message. And don’t think the bully is right.
2. Block – Make sure that the person bullying you can’t contact you again.
3. Screenshot – Save proof by taking a screenshot of the bullying.
4. Talk – Tell an adult you trust – it could be your parent, your favorite teacher, or your cool Aunt who you text back and forth with. Text her and say, "Hey Aunt Sue, can we chat?" An adult can help you figure this thing out. You don't have to face it alone. And don't worry, you won't get in trouble.
As a digital native turned social media strategist for leading brands, and then social media coach to teens around the country, these tips come from first-hand experience of navigating the complexities of online bullying. As a parent, rather than playing whack-a-mole with cyberbullying, let's give our children simple tips to always — repeat, always — take the high road. No matter which digital scenario they face.
Sure, cyberbullies exist on most social media platforms. Now, what we need more than ever are cyberbackers: people who have your child's back and help them navigate the ropes. Start by having their back and sharing these four important tips with them.