Monday, November 8, 2010

Initiating Conversation about Teens and Texting (with donations to DoSomething.org and a gift certificate for you)

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and LG Text Ed

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about teens and texting on this blog. Many of you submitted thoughtful comments. Several bloggers had been asked by BlogHer and LG to write about this subject. Technology is pervasive and invasive in our lives and our teens' lives and as parents, we do ourselves and our kids a disservice by not realizing that the world we are raising our children in is absolutely not the same world from our youth. As far as technology goes, I believe my parents limited how late I could stay up watching television but Happy Days or Mork and Mindy on one of the "big three" networks was about as risque as it got. Movie theatres carded you if you were under 18 and tried to get into an R movie. And my parents freaked out when I came home with an AC/DC album. That is pretty much the extent of technology during my teen years.

My parents didn't have to talk to me about talking on a phone or texting while driving, sexting was not in the dictionary back then, pocket sized cameras on cellphones in locker rooms was something we could only imagine from an episode of Star Trek, and while bullying has always been around - only technology could have taken it to the level it is today.

Today's parents find ourselves in the situation of needing to have another talk with our kids. The online and cell phone talk. And, just like the sex talk, this is one where by the time we get around to discussing some of these vital issues with our kids, they've already had more experience in these areas than we'd care to think about. It's an important talk. It's actually a series of important conversations we need to have with our children over a protracted period of time.

Because this topic is so important for our kids and their futures, BlogHer wants to get the conversation about texting, sexting, and safety going - both with our kids and among parents. To do so, BlogHer has once again asked a group of bloggers to post about this issue. But we are doing it with a twist this time.

Allow me to introduce my kids. I have a 13 year old son, a 16 year old son, a 19 year old daughter and a 19 year old son. They all text. They all have camera enabled cell phones. Three of them drive. This technology has been part of their lives for years and will continue to be part of their lives.

I'd like to ask my kids some questions on this blog and then post their answers. Have an online conversation about these critical issues. I need some help though. I need you all to submit questions you'd like me to ask my kids. Would you like to ask any of them a question about texting? About cell phone use? How about bullying, sexting, or technology at school? Questions about teens and texting while driving? For each comment you leave on this post, BlogHer and LG will each give a .50 donation to dosomething.org, so please give me your suggestions for questions for my kids. Dosomething.org will get a $1.00 donation for each and every one.

Ask away. I'll pass the question along to the teen you'd like me to ask, or the one I think can address the question best. Two weeks from now, I'll publish your questions and my kids' answers. I think it will be very interesting to hear what their view is on these subjects as well.

You might want to read the other posts about teens and texting which can be found at BlogHer.
LG has a great site that includes fabulous resources for parents about texting (including deciphering that shorthand they use).
You can check out Jane Lynch's video on this subject here.

As an added incentive, I am personally going to give one commenter a $25 gift certificate to the merchandiser of their choice. I'll draw this randomly from all the comments on this post and a followup post I'll be doing in two weeks. This gift certificate will be purchased by me personally and I will receive nothing in return from any merchandiser. You don't have to do a thing except leave me a thoughtful comment with a question for my kids or enter the discussion in the comments about parenting, teens and texting.


(Random.org selected comment #13, Fragrant Liar, as our giveaway winner. The giveaway is now closed but I'd love to hear any further comments you'd like to leave.)

88 comments:

Scrappy Girl said...

My 15 year old is constantly glued to her cell phone. I sometimes think she has forgotten how to speak into the phone cause she texts so often.

I would like for you to ask your kids...

Have they ever sent or received a sext?! If they have, would they tell you about it.

Jules said...

Great topic Debbie. Being an Aunt who knows all this sometimes puts me in a bad spot but communication and the willingness to listen are the keys here.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Bonnie said...

Great post Debbie. I have an almost 13 year old son and I have lots of questions. Like you said, things are so different with the way they have technology these days.

My son gets a lot of texts from girls. I'm curious what they are talking about.

Can you ask your 13 yr old son if he gets many texts from girls and if so what do they talk about??

Dedene said...

This is a real plaque everywhere. In France, all the teens are so busy texting that they don't even look up when they cross the street.
Thanks for writing about this.

Andrea said...

I would like to know if your teens let you look at their text messages.

McVal said...

My 16 year old is driving now and she's an avid text-er... but she doesn't in the car. She doesn't even answer the phone in the car. And I believe her.

Ask your kids if they text when driving? Or if they'd admit to it if they did.

Eva Gallant said...

Ask your 13 and 16 year-olds if bullying is an issue at their schools. If it is, what has the school done about it?

Jonita said...

I would love if you could ask your kids if they have ever been bullied through a text message or know anyone who has? I've heard that this is getting more prevalent (the bully doesn't even need to face the person that they are attacking) and I would love to know if they have any advice for teens who find themselves being bullied by text.

Mrs. Tuna said...

Ask you kiddies "why do teens feel compelled to always be witin reach of their cells, even when they are in bed?"

My parents didn't let us talk on the phone anywhere but the kitchen in front of an audience. We didn't let our daughter take her cell phone into her bedroom until she went to college.

Pricilla said...

My nephew does not feel it is rude (he is 15) to text while he is having lunch with his visiting aunt. While I know I am old I do feel he owes me his attention for at least 15 minutes. Am I wrong?

Cheryl888 said...

Are they texting while driving and are any of their friends doing so? Do they take laws against texting while driving seriously or think that it doesn't apply to them?

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Hi Debbie,
I have a 13 and 14 year old that text all the time. I'm pretty sure this is the norm nowadays. Soon they will be driving, and that scares the heck out of me. I believe that the only way an individual can protect themselves or others from harm while driving and texting is to impose some sort of restrictions on themselves, such as turning off their phones. Do your children that drive take any precautions while driving? And not something from you or your husband, but something they do for themselves each time they get in the car? I am very curious to know if teenagers really take responsibility when it comes to this sort of thing.

Fragrant Liar said...

My questions are:

1) How strict are the teachers about kids accessing their cell phones during class or between classes, and do kids sneak texts in anyway?

2) Have you ever known some kids were bullying other kids, but not done anything about it?

Thanks, Debbie. Great post.

Amy Sullivan said...

Debbie,
Loving this topic- here we go:

1. How many of their friends text and drive?
2. How much do your kids or their friends really text in school?

Jill of All Trades said...

Awww, fortunately I did not have to deal with that with my kiddos or me (way, way to old). My girls were the age of cell phones but that was fairly new thing. This texting thing I just don't know. I think I would just not have it on the phone if that is possible. Our company phones for our guys didn't have texting until last year so it used to be done. Just cut it off parents. Easier said than done I would imagine.

CailinMarie said...

hmmm... well I need to think about this.

My oldest is 12 and does have a cell phone which she uses frequently to text me (practice ended early can I have a ride? sort of thing)

At this stage in the game for her and me as her mom I am most worried about her sharing her information.

If someone asks you for your cell phone number, do you automatically share it? Just because her home number (we still have a land line) is in the phone book doesn't mean I want every Dick and Jane to have her cell phone number.

How would you gracefully tell someone that you don't share your cell number?

How much of a baby does it make you if you say "my mom pays for my phone and only she needs the number. call me at my house phone"

someone was forwarding weird messages around Halloween and forwarded it to my daughter. She was bothered by it and couldn't fall asleep that night. It was irritating - thanks to a stupid text my 7th grader wasn't able to fall asleep. I still have toddlers. I need my big kids in bed!

Do they think that kids who do get bullied tell adults about it?

What's next said...

I'd love to know if your driving age kids are faithful to not text and drive... I preach this even to my 30 yr old niece! I am carful about my phone use in the car, not even looking at a text when I get one since I have kids watching me who will be driving shortly...

Hilary said...

I am APALLED by what goes on at the high school that my husband teaches at.

I'm not sure what I'd ask them, other than the fact that EVERYTHING That you do electronically can be forwarded on to ANYONE'S choice.

Silly kids. :D

BTW, the cheerleading coach got fired because she was helping with the "intimate" pictures.
EWww....

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I share your concerns. My mom was ahead (or behind?) of her times. No anatomically incorrect Barbie dolls for me. And very little TV. When Betty Ford made a cameo appearance on the Mary Tyler Moore show, my parents freaked ("the indignity!"). Now Jon Stewart is calling the President "dude."

I just read the other day that empathy in the teenage segment is down something like 45% since the internet connection came online. Is the sky falling? ; )

The Mom said...

I am struggling with my 17 year old texting too much. I have family allowances on our plan, so he has restrictions on how many texts he can send in a week.

But I have also found that when the texting gets taken away (for various reasons) he is so much more fun to be around. Like he can focus on us and the family instead of his friends.


If your kids have ever had their texting taken away, were they relieved, even just a little bit, to get that break from the technology?

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Do you think that parents have a right to find out what and who you are texting?

If texting didn't exist, would you spend more time talking to your friends face to face?

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ethelmaepotter! said...

Wow, what an important topic. I guess we need text and sext education as much as reading, writing, and 'rithmatic these days.

I'd like to know if any teachers or counselors actually DO caution kids about any of these subjects. Have they been informed about the statistics of kids killed while texting and driving? About the consequences of killing or injuring someone else while "looking down for just a second?" And what about sexting? Do they know the laws on that, and consequences should those laws be broken?

I guess it sounds harsh, trying to scare kids like that...no, no, it doesn't. I'd rather have my child scared into NOT doing something than risk his life DOING it.

Kids need to KNOW this stuff. We put warnings on cigarette packages; why not on cell phones?

Brian Miller said...

great idea...working with kids, this is a huge issue...

what perameters did your parents give you when you got your cell phone?

if someone sent you an innapropriate text, what do you do?

Quiet Lady said...

I would like to know:

If you couldn't use your phone for one day a week what would you do with that time?

Amanda-The Nutritionist Reviews said...

Great post!

I just found your blog through Follow Me back Tuesday! Have a great evening.

Amanda @ www.nutritionistreviews.com

shelbers434 said...

I would like to ask why it's so addicting because I don't currently have a teenager (mine is still little) and I also want to know what they feel comfortable telling their parents about their text messages
snugles4433@hotmail.com
shelby

blueviolet said...

Would you be offended if your parents wanted to look and see who you were texting and who was texting you.

Ann On and On... said...

This is a great idea.

These questions can be asked to any of the kids.

Do any of your friends not have a cell phone? It seems like we have decided that everyone needs on... I have gone 7 years without one now. As someone who use to be glued to hers it's not that difficult.

Do you have any restrictions with your phone? If it's for "emergency" as most parents tell me when I ask why their kids have phones. Are there hours of the day you are not allowed to use it?

Do you know the dangers in texting while driving? Have you had any "close calls"? I know I did when I was driving while talking on the phone.

Have your parents actually talked to you about your use of the cell phone?

Great topic Debbie! I have been curious about this and look forward to hearing their answers. Honestly, I need to understand why so many kids have cell phones.

rockes15@charter.net said...

Why do kids text instead of just call? I can't figure it out I mean isnt calling faster, more efficient, andcheaper?

rockes15@charter.net said...

sorry that email should read rockets15 not rockes15

Amy said...

I do not have to deal with this matter just yet. I do know others who do. I just think it is sad that people even teens do not call and talk to each other. I mean where is the social skill in that? I would hope that this changes.

Amy O. said...

I have two young kids and would like to ask:
at what age are kids starting to text now days? I just want to know when their peers are going to start carrying cell phones around.
amyoonk@gmail(dot)com
thanks!

Em said...

Interesting topic. And I'm very curious about bullying. And privacy. I think both of those are terms that our kids define differently than we do. They tolerate more in terms of bullying and they are less concerned about privacy than we ever were.

Please ask them....how do they define bullying when it comes to texting or other social media. And have they ever encountered any texts that they perceived as an attempt to bully or pressure them in some way.

Joanie M said...

What do your kids do if they get a threatening text message? Save it to show a person of authority later, or delete it?

Sue said...

Do they feel that texting has ever interfered in anyway with any relationships - friends or family? Like texting so much has lost them some relationships with others who don't text?

charrette said...

I have a 19-year-old, a 16-year-old, and an 11-year old. We have our kids charge their phones upstairs in our bedroom by 10 pm every night. If they fail to comply they lose their phone for a day. Our youngest doesn't have a phone yet, and won't for another three years. My daughter received one sext from a boy and we promptly blocked his number from our phone.

I would like you to ask your kids how open they feel they can be with their parents regarding their texting habits. I feel like the openness between us and our kids has been the most important component in the technology battle.

sheila said...

I don't mind that my kids text all the time. Free texting is better than limited minutes. I think a good parent has a handle on what's going on and there's mutual respect between parent and child..as well as boundaries. Most kids that I know understand this and follow the rules very well.

My kids let me check their texts if I wanted, but I only have once, and that was because a wrong number texted his phone and it was funny. (funny message).

SandyCarlson said...

Is texting common at your schools? Why do you think kids text during class? Do they ever text specifically because they don't like school?

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Are kids texting in school to cheat on tests? How common is sexting photos? Photos scare the crap out of me. Scary to think that photos taken on a whim could be out there forever.

Chantel said...

I think the question is how willing to be open about what the content of their texts are with their parents. If they don't want to share, is there possibly a reason for this? Is it because they feel like they'll be "judged and lectured" or because there's something there that they know they shouldn't have or be involved in.

italianmamachef said...

My boys are 14 and 15 and have no cell phones. We just can't afford to get phones for them. When we can, we plan to be pro-active with these kinds of conversations.

I guess one question I have is do they have any real relationships with the people they text? In other words, is the texting another form of communicating or the only form? Face to face communication is the best. Texting allows for so much to be lost in communicating.

Life with Kaishon said...

I want to know if they have ever looked at a text while driving?

Who pays your cell phone bill?

How many text messages do you get a day approximately?

And, last, but not least, does having a hangnail hinder any of the children from texting?

Rebecca said...

I can't think of a question that hasn't already been asked. Can't wait to see the answers from the teens points of view. I have 8 kids from 19 to 2, three of them having phones. We have learned a lot through trial and error, and have created rules when problems have occurred. There is a lot of good from technology, but my husband and I see the bad and temptations that come with it. Our kids don't have access to the internet, turn their phones in at night, and we reserve the right to read their texts at any time. We as parents need to be vigilant and not fall into the trap of thinking, "Not my child". Satan desires these valiant souls and will do anything.
Thanks for opening up a dialogue, this is a great idea!

Sandra said...

It's funny how we seem to think that our youth was so good compared to today's, yet today's youth are so savvy. I admit, I'm stuck in nostalgia, but when I see how adept and smart children are nowadays, I realize this is a good time to be growing up.
Great post. got me thinking.

Alexis AKA MOM said...

I was behind a teen and actually watched them bounce back and forth in the lane, I doubt they were even looking forward. Very scary. At the state fair they showed a girls car that died while, he text was something simple like 2 words. VERY sad.

Lara said...

My kids are not old enough to have cellphones yet (oldest is 10), but when they are, they will have to EARN their texting rights. After that I don't know what I'll do if it gets out of hand.

edshunnybunny said...

I recently heard on television about a study that said "teens who text a lot are more likely to be involved in teen sex and/or drugs." What are your teens thoughts on this study?

gail myrepurposedlife.net said...

I would like for you to challenge your kiddos to go without their phone for 1 evening.
gail

I'm Tatom said...

My 14 year old's phone is glued to her hand. Some how she thinks the bill just gets paid Miraculously.

Kathy said...

I am concerned about texting, My 10 year old wants a phone but we wont let him get one. I told him when he can pay for it, he can get it. I don't want him to grow up too fast by seeing a picture or text of something he should not.

wigget said...

i want to know at what age one should have "the talk" with boys vs girls.

Teresha@Marlie and Me said...

I really want to know why kids overshare online and in text messages (i.e. post intimate photos), but then demand privacy at home (i.e. get mad if a family member reads her/his diary).

Mrs.Mayhem said...

Oh, this is awesome! Thank you for posting this! I need lots of guidance and advice in this area... I'm very technically challenged. All of my son's 13 year old friends have nicer phones than I do.

How prevalent is sexting, truly?

Who pays the phone bill?

Do you & your friends prefer talking or texting more?

Angel Jacklyn said...

I WOULD (IF I WERE YOU) ASK THEM (ANY OF THE ONES OLD ENOUGH TO DRIVE) ABOUT IF THEY KNOW THE DANGERS OF TEXTING AND DRIVING. YOU DON'T WANT TO GET TOO PERSONAL AS IT WILL CAUSE THEM TO BACK OFF & CLOSE UP. TRY TO COME TO A COMPATIBLE AGREEMENT OF NOT TEXTING AND DRIVING BY EDUCATING THEM WITH SOME STATISTICS. GOOD LUCK kytah00@yahoo.com

Shooting Stars Mag said...

My question would be...

"would they rat out a friend for sexting? why or why not?"

-Lauren
lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

gmissycat said...

I have got to say that sometimes, the only way I can talk to my son is by texting. It is just easier for him to talk to me when he feels uneasy. What ever it takes to get him to talk, I am for.

gmissycat at yahoo dot com

Havana said...

I enjoy your blog a lot.

jenspurg said...

Do all your friends have cell phones and do they all text?

Do you share your number with everyone or only people you know well?

huntandride@hotmail.com

Nicole said...

What a great post! Something that a lot of people need to be aware of.

I feel so old when I start saying, "Back in the day.." but it was so much better when we were growing up. Like you said we only had a few channels to choose from and nothing was a risque as it is now. Shoot the commercials are more risque than the shows were.

All this texting and sexting is so scary! I know my daughter will hate it but she is going to have one of those phones that will only call certain people and no texting! Think that will fly when she get's to be a teen? She's almost 4 now so I have a little bit to worry about it, by then there will be something worse going on unfortunately. =(

greenlee42 said...

Do your friends text and drive?
k k g r a y 8 8 @yahoo

BethW7372 said...

I would have you ask if they know if friends have ever used texting to cheat on tests at school. (hear that's a problem now)

Also, if they do text while driving (or for a girl, put on makeup while driving).

Michele R said...

We are the meanest parents in town because we have a 9th grader and 7th grader (and 4th) and no one has own cell phone and there is no texting. Well, there was some and since we don't have a plan, the 9th grader paid me $40 for the texts. We have extra cell phones for when they go out on weekend but no need for it at school.
Question: do teens know how to approach someone they like face-to-face these days and get to know them or strike up a conversation in person rather than texting or Facebooking?

Brigid Pitts said...

My oldest is only 4, but I am terrified thinking about what we have to deal with when the kids are older. Are cell phones really a necessity for kids? Will my kids be freaks if they don't have them? I don't even want to consider them until they are driving, and even then, I would like to limit their access. More like, I have an extra cell phone that I let them borrow when it is necessary.

Angela said...

I would love to hear your kid's thought on phone etiquette....such as when is it not polite to be texting. So many people now text at restaurants or right in the middle of conversing with others. Do they view as anytime is game? Am I the only one who finds it rude?
veniceangel@hotmail.com

Amy Johnson said...

I didn't get a cell phone until college, and I remember being far more connected with my family than with most of my friends when I was in grade school. But now my nephew is constantly texting, and I'm a little worried about how much of an influence his friends have over him vs. his mom.

so my question would be, when you have a serious question, would you bring it to your parents/family first, or would you text/call a friend?

a_fairys_dream said...

my son is 14 yrs old and desperately wants a cell phone, i was thinking of getting him one for christmas that has unlimited texts on it since that is all he wants anyway, should i check his texts to and from other friends or is that considered an invasion of privacy?

a_fairys_dream said...

my son is 14 yrs old and desperately wants a cell phone, i was thinking of getting him one for christmas that has unlimited texts on it since that is all he wants anyway, should i check his texts to and from other friends or is that considered an invasion of privacy?

marisa said...

I liked your post. I have a 17 year old who is glued to the phone

Marchifamily said...

I would like to know if kids are considered outcasts in school if they don't have phones. What age do kids usually get phones?

SweetShenanigans said...

I think it really depends on the school. At some schools it is completely fine if you don't have a phone and it doesn't matter either way. At others it is the main way to communicate with your peers, and if you don't have a phone it will be hard to fit in. I have found that usually teenagers just talk about random things when they text, such as school and their life.

Barb J. said...

I'm not sure this is a question a teen would really be able to answer, but I have always why they have a constant need to be on their cell phones - either texting or calls. Is there something (like quality time or attention) that they feel they are not getting from family? On the positive side, have your kids ever used their cell phones for something REALLY helpful? For instance, have the phones ever enabled them to call their parents to get them out of a potentially dangerous situation?

Susie B. Homemaker said...

I'd think cell phones aren't allowed in schools, but my question is- Are kids in High School sneaking them in and still texting on them (texting to kids in other classrooms, etc.)? Also as a mom do you put any restrictions on your kids phones?

Amethyst Moon said...

I'm a new follower. I have 2 daughters 18 and 16, and texting is definitely a huge part of their life, and is usually the first priveledge that they lose for discipline. My children know that I can ask for their phone at any time, and they must be responsible with it. Great topic!

katychick said...

Ask your kids- do they get test answers on their phones or quiz answers on their phones in a text ?

i hate kids having cellphones.
tcogbill at live dot com

Deb F. said...

My 16 year old and my 19 year old text a lot. However, neither of them will text and drive.

This is such an important issue. At my kids' school, they had someone talk to them about improper texts and sexting.

Would your children tell you if they received an improper text from someone they did not know?

My 16 year old did. A girl he had never met somehow got hold of his cell phone number. She asked him if they could be girlfriend and boyfriend, and told him where she lived and how she would like to meet him. He was definitely creeped out.

Ty said...

It seems like my child is always on his cellphone texting or doing what not on the cell phone. I believe it has good things about it to also, the fact that in a dire situation parents could be called or texted in a snap. So it has good and bad sides. Here is my question - Do you think it is okay to text and drive?

Selective Sensualist said...

Could you ask your kids to imagine a scenario where their group of friends begins to bully a peer via texting? Talk through this scenario and ask them how they think the bullying might start. You can also offer your own ideas on how it could start (it often stems from very minor things, but mostly because the group senses a specific child's vulnerability).

Ask your children how they think cell phones may make the bullying escalate and become worse. Explain that it is easier to be mean to people when one is not face to face with them; but, over time as one becomes more emboldened, even the public face-to-face mistreatment of the targeted person becomes worse since the group has de-personalized him/her so much. Ask your child how s/he thinks the targeted child must feel to receive such abuse day after day after day.

In discussing this, you could throw out various situations and ask your child to assess whether s/he thinks that bullying has occurred. In building up various scenarios, you and your child may want to come up with a dialogue and identify who a potential target of their group could be to make the scenario seem more real and to help them see how KNOWING the right thing to do is one thing, but actually DOING it is quite another.

Discuss how bullying usually starts as something seemingly mild and innocuous and then escalates (sometimes gradually and sometimes exponentially). Talk about how "pack mentality" (i.e., group members feeding off of each other) can lead to behavior in which a single individual would never consider engaging.

Discuss how difficult it would be for ANYONE to not just go along with the flow, so to speak, to maintain their "cool" standing in their peer group. Discuss how doing nothing, even if they are not contributing to the bullying themselves, is to silently condone the bullying.

After building up the hypothetical scenario (or possibly even an actual situation, if they have witnessed one), ask them what they think the right thing to do would be. You will probably need to have several conversations over an ongoing period of time to cover all this; but, for this particular conversation, it would be most helpful to your child to talk with them one-on-one so they will be forced to problem-solve on his/her own -- and not have this process cut short by siblings' suggestions.

Some questions for each individual child: What options would they have before them to stop or challenge this behavior? How could they implement this plan? What EXACTLY would they say? Who would they say this to?

Talk through each step they could take and have them imagine the various possible repercussions of each step, both negative and positive. If one thing they try does not work, what else could they try? How many different options do they have?

Finally, reiterate just how difficult it is to do the right thing rather than just going along to get along. Then discuss how the effects of NOT doing the right thing can have lasting consequences that they could possibly regret for a lifetime.

Talk to them about how doing the right thing can also have negative consequences, but when we do the right thing, the negative repercussions are usually relatively short-lived and we are much less likely to be filled with regret for a LIFETIME. You can use recent examples of teens who were bullied to the point of suicide. Who wants to live a lifetime wishing they had done something to stop the bullying that ultimately led to a life cut short, a potential unfulfilled? Regret is such a heart-breaking emotion that takes root in our souls and is very difficult to uproot.

(Continued below . . . )
selectivesensualist(at)yahoo(dot)com

Selective Sensualist said...

Could you ask your kids to imagine a scenario where their group of friends begins to bully a peer via texting? Talk through this scenario and ask them how they think the bullying might start. You can also offer your own ideas on how it could start (it often stems from very minor things, but mostly because the group senses a specific child's vulnerability).

Ask your children how they think cell phones may make the bullying escalate and become worse. Explain that it is easier to be mean to people when one is not face to face with them; but, over time as one becomes more emboldened, even the public face-to-face mistreatment of the targeted person becomes worse since the group has de-personalized him/her so much. Ask your child how s/he thinks the targeted child must feel to receive such abuse day after day after day.

In discussing this, you could throw out various situations and ask your child to assess whether s/he thinks that bullying has occurred. In building up various scenarios, you and your child may want to come up with a dialogue and identify who a potential target of their group could be to make the scenario seem more real and to help them see how KNOWING the right thing to do is one thing, but actually DOING it is quite another.

Discuss how bullying usually starts as something seemingly mild and innocuous and then escalates (sometimes gradually and sometimes exponentially). Talk about how "pack mentality" (i.e., group members feeding off of each other) can lead to behavior in which a single individual would never consider engaging.

Discuss how difficult it would be for ANYONE to not just go along with the flow, so to speak, to maintain their "cool" standing in their peer group. Discuss how doing nothing, even if they are not contributing to the bullying themselves, is to silently condone the bullying.

After building up the hypothetical scenario (or possibly even an actual situation, if they have witnessed one), ask them what they think the right thing to do would be. You will probably need to have several conversations over an ongoing period of time to cover all this; but, for this particular conversation, it would be most helpful to your child to talk with them one-on-one so they will be forced to problem-solve on his/her own -- and not have this process cut short by siblings' suggestions.

Some questions for each individual child: What options would they have before them to stop or challenge this behavior? How could they implement this plan? What EXACTLY would they say? Who would they say this to?

Talk through each step they could take and have them imagine the various possible repercussions of each step, both negative and positive. If one thing they try does not work, what else could they try? How many different options do they have?

Finally, reiterate just how difficult it is to do the right thing rather than just going along to get along. Then discuss how the effects of NOT doing the right thing can have lasting consequences that they could possibly regret for a lifetime.

Talk to them about how doing the right thing can also have negative consequences, but when we do the right thing, the negative repercussions are usually relatively short-lived and we are much less likely to be filled with regret for a LIFETIME. You can use recent examples of teens who were bullied to the point of suicide. Who wants to live a lifetime wishing they had done something to stop the bullying that ultimately led to a life cut short, a potential unfulfilled? Regret is such a heart-breaking emotion that takes root in our souls and is very difficult to uproot.

(Cont'd)

Selective Sensualist said...

CONTINUED FROM ABOVE (Sorry for the accidental double-post of the first part!)

After discussing what they would do if they witnessed bullying, discuss what action they could take when they themselves are the target. Explain that no one is immune to bullying. Every single person on this planet has fallen victim to some form of bullying -- and it does not reflect negatively on them as a person just because they were targeted. Their identity is not defined by the fact that they were targeted. They are NOT victims, no matter how much they might be victimized by a bully. Work with them on how to carry themselves with confidence -- and to confidently reject the notion that they could possibly ever deserve to be mistreated. Role-play responses to bullying behavior. Since your children are such a broad range of ages, it would be interesting to hear the broad range of responses.

After discussing what they would do if they witnessed bullying, discuss what action they could take when they themselves are the target. Explain that no one is immune to bullying. Every single person on this planet has fallen victim to some form of bullying -- and it does not reflect negatively on them as a person just because they were targeted. Their identity is not defined by the fact that they were targeted. They are NOT victims, no matter how much they might be victimized by a bully. Work with them on how to carry themselves with confidence -- and to confidently reject the notion that they could possibly ever deserve to be mistreated. Role-play responses to bullying behavior. Since your children are such a broad range of ages, it would be interesting to hear the broad range of responses.

After you have had this conversation with each child, consider having a full family discussion where you all discuss what plan of action each of them would take in the event that they either witness bullying or are bullied themselves. They will learn a lot from each other! And, I dare say, even adults can learn a lot from children by going through this process.

After you have had a full-family discussion, you may also want to consider arranging a similar group discussion with each individual child and his or her friends (make sure to include the friends' parents, too!). This would greatly strengthen the kids' responses and give them more confidence -- a "game plan," so to speak -- in challenging bullying behavior. They will better recognize potentially bullying behavior when they come close to becoming aggressors themselves -- and they will have a group plan to defend each other when one of them is targeted. They can also discuss amongst themselves the power that they have, as a group, in coming to the aid of a child outside their circle who they witness being bullied. Peer groups in school can be extremely powerful. We all want this power to be a positive one, not a negative one!

We can all learn so much just by shining the light of discussion on such a dark subject. Kudos to you for broaching this most important conversation! Public awareness is so incredibly important.

Best wishes to your kiddos and may they become as resistant as possible against the negative effects caused by bullying. :)

selectivesensualist(at)yahoo(dot)com

Rosanova Family said...

Can a teen-ager nowadays even survive socially without a cell phone?

Lesley Mitchell said...

I think technology, and cell phones in particular, make it more difficult for children to develop the much-needed social skills of dealing with people face to face.

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you won a blog award congrats!
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