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Bullying by students on social networking sites and what actions parents can take to limit and prevent these abuses from occurring

Last month (March 2010) I wrote an article addressing the issue of whether or not teachers and students should be “friends” on Facebook and other Web 2.0 technologies.  This month (April 2010) I am posting an article on the use and abuse of Web 2.0 technologies by students and what parents can do to limit, and in some cases prevent, the abuse while at the same time increasing their child’s mental, emotional and social health and well-being.

In today’s society, technology has become a central part of our lives.  We connect and communicate with others via cell phones, the Internet (e-mail) and social networking sites like Facebook on a daily basis.

Many students have cell phones with text messaging and Internet capabilities as well as Facebook pages.  For many students, text messaging and/or Facebook have become a primary way to communicate with friends and family.

Recently, school based personnel (and some families) have become increasingly aware that some students have been using text messaging and their Facebook pages to bully, harass and intimidate other students.   The responsibility of the school is to run formal and informal programs on the dangers and risks associated with the Internet and text messaging as well as to develop guidelines to effectively and efficiently handle incidences of abuse when they occur.

For you as a parent, I have several recommendations that may help you to understand, communicate and educate your children on the safe use of this technology (cell phones, Facebook, etc.).

I recommend that you:

  1. Learn all you can about text messaging, Facebook, etc.  If you need, have someone teach you the “basics”.   In addition, many local libraries offer free courses on these topics.
  2. Monitor your child’s text messages and Facebook pages.  These should NOT be private.  If your child refuses to share with you his/her text messages and Facebook pages, he/she is most likely hiding something that you NEED to see.
  3. Do not allow your children to have access to their cell phones and the Internet when they go to bed.   I find that many who come to school tired, agitated and/or are not doing well on exams, experience these symptoms as a result of lack of sleep.  Looking further into this we often find that they are text messaging and speaking with their friends on the Internet well into the night.  To hear of a student text messaging or on the Internet at 2:00 am and 3:00 am is not uncommon.
  4. Set limits on the amount of hours they can use technology for social purposes.
  5. Discuss appropriate usage of the cell phone during the school day.  At most schools, students are glued to their cell phones when they go to the bathroom (they often go to the bathroom to use the cell phone), in the lunch room and occasionally in the hall between classes.
  6. I recommend that if your child has a cell phone with text messaging capabilities, you request from your cell phone provider (it is free) a list of all text messages sent (this will include day and time messages were sent and received).  You may be very surprised at what you see.

© Dr. Steven R. Levey, PhD, L.C.S.W. – 2010

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