(pic brought to you by: Miss Blackflag)
As a youth worker, one of the nastiest teen bullying episodes I encountered was on facebook. I knew cyber bullying was happening, but I didn’t know it got so mean, dirty and out of control.
I quickly learned: Students can leverage their social media influence to bully students they don’t like. And the scary thing is that the cyber bully can easily frame any student by easily manipulating and destroying their online presence in a matter of seconds. Students are more inclined to be really unkind online.
So how do we (parents, peers and pastor) help kids who get caught in this social media bullying crossfire?
Parents: The youth ministry needs to not only educate but enroll parents to help protect and monitor their student’s social media presence. The monitoring of the parents will greatly help when you (the youth pastor) hear and/or see the online bullying happening. When others would tell me about online bullying or I would see it for myself I would simply shoot the parents an email/text saying: “You may want to look at your student’s facebook page”. The biggest advantage to online bullying is that it is public domain, so everyone can see it and help stop it.
According to Pew research (Pew’s research ran a series of seven focus groups with teens aged 12 to 19):
77 percent say they’ve (the parents) checked a website that their child has visited. Two thirds have searched to see what kind of data showed up about their child.
86 percent of teens said they’ve gleaned “general advice” from their parents on using the ‘Net safely’.
58% of teen internet and cell phone users told Pew that “their parents have been the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate when using the internet or a cell phone.
More than six in ten teens report that they know their parents have checked their social media profile, and 41% of parents of online teens have friended their child on a social network site
Parents are key when trying to prevent online bullying. They can stop it before it gets out of control or it is too late.
Peers: friends are obviously a huge part of a teenagers life. So it may be wise to get other trusted adults to lean into the peer network when confronting cyber bullying. We can invite the peers (of the one being bullied) not to join in on the cyber bullying and also stand up to the bullier by asking him/her/they to stop. Ask the friends to stand up for what is right when they see their friends getting bullied.
According to Pew research:
But over half (55 percent) said that most of their peers ignore the bad treatment or bullying of others. Nineteen percent admitted that they “frequently see others join in the harassment.”
The role of the friend is very pivotal because how he/she responds, determines if the online bullying continues.
Pastor: As a youth pastor, I think it is our responsibility to help assist, correct, confront, discipline, encourage and equip our students’ online lives. Students always need more help in how they navigate their online world. Also don’t hesitate to confront the cyber bully. I had no problems confronting the cyber bully who was bullying students in the community.
Plus if parents know they have another trusted-committed-online savvy adult looking out for their teen online, then parents will automatically love you. I am a big advocate for youth pastors pastoring their student online. This online pastoring not only protects their students, but invites students to be like Jesus in their online relationships. A student simply needs to be taught and modeled how to conduct their offline and online presence. Essentially both the online and offline Christian teenager needs to love and reflect Jesus in every “space” of their life and they may be looking to their parents and youth pastor for help.
According to Pew research:
70 percent of teens said they’ve gotten advice from teachers or other adults at school and in the community.
Questions For the Youth Pastor:
How do you educate parents about social media? Do you feel like your parents are checking their students online profiles?
How involved should a youth pastor get in “pastoring” their students online?
Do you find in your context that online bullying is a happening frequently? Why or why not.
What other ways can youth ministries stop online bullying? How have you dealt with online bullying in your youth ministry?