Summer is an exciting time of year for teenagers now that school's out. Unfortunately, cyberbullies don't take vacation days. As the weather heats up, so can the hateful and negative distractions that are abound in the digital world.
With over one-third of teens owning smartphones and virtually all having online access, teens are constantly connected with peers outside of the classroom. This is why it's so important to encourage your t(w)een girl to stay occupied and be smart about using the internet over the next few months. The way your children carry out their social life requires the same level of conduct both online and offline.
Instagram offers a visual way to compliment and show respect to peers, which shouldn't be reserved to only tweets or status updates.
Being able to hide behind a computer screen feeds into the aggression we see on social networks. Cyberbullying results in profound emotional pain: teenagers can become frozen in fear, isolated, and withdrawn from the physical world. The "mean girls" gang-like mentality can be even more devastating. A jealous friend or teammate may conspire to manipulate your daughter into doubting herself, and other girls will often join in the harassment "just because." Others will sit idly by. So what's their rationale? Both bullies, online or not, relish in tearing down others to elevate their confidence and status.
Many of us, including myself, have been made victims of cyberbullying. As an adult, I can admit that the pain was difficult to alleviate, so I'm passionate to share this message with fellow parents as a wake-up call for the summer: be aware of changes in your teen's behavior that might be due to issues online. Children may not share when they've been victimized, so it's up to us as parents to be aware of the warning signs of cyberbullying and ask questions.
With personal strength and support from true friends, girls can write off cyberbullies. The key is to empower girls to share kindness and eliminate messages of hatred.
This summer, consider Sweety High as an online destination for your teen girl. It's an excellent platform designed for your t(w)een daughter to express herself artistically and explore her feelings about online pressures. She'll be surrounded by girls with similar interests and passions in an environment where there is zero tolerance for any type of harassment.
Co-founder Veronica Zelle, a former music video producer says about the social network:
"It is our responsibility to take care of young girls and to teach them how to be responsible online through their language, which is arts and entertainment. We have the power to build self-esteem for young females, but need to help guide them and lead by example. Sweety High does a great job getting our users to create their own content and support each other. We show by example rather then tell girls what they should and should not do. Some of the solutions for these problems are so simple, but yet no one is doing it. "
If your daughter loves being part of a social-networking society, let it be a positive one -- an environment where she can flourish and grow.
This isn't necessarily breaking news: sharing uplifting words is just as easy as spreading cruel ones. As Veronica notes, this notion gets shoved under the rug in our society, and #TakeNoBullies, a movement by SmartSign to fight against bullying, confronts that theme. It will help make teens aware of various issues: how special needs kids are treated, or how to simply spread the word that kindness is contagious. Go out of your way to do something nice each day for a stranger and communicate the same with your child. Pay it forward.
• Be proactive. Encourage your t(w)een to start or join an anti-bullying group this summer.
• Be present. Educate yourself on bullying and cyber bullying awarness.
• Be prepared. Energize your community for BLUE Shirt Day! STOMPOutBullying on October 7, 2013!
• Be positive. Empower, enrich and encourage your t(w)eens to be the difference. Remember parents, you are their role model.
Let's make this a summer where your teen makes kindness go viral -- both online and off.
Follow Sue Scheff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SueScheff