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Parents can play key role in addressing cyberbullying
Crisis expert urges parents to monitor what their children do online
Parents have a responsibility to plug into the online lives of their children, according to Cheri Lovre, the director of the Crisis Management Institute of Salem, during a program on cyberbullying Monday and Tuesday at La Grande High School for parents and community members.
“Engagement in your kids’ cyber world is critical,” Lovre said. “It is your business to look at your child’s history online. It is our business to be fully engaged in our kid’s lives.”
Lovre said that unless parents know what their children are up to online they cannot help them deal with cyberbullying, which includes text messages, emails and Facebook posts.
“In the old days, kids would be bullied on the playground,” Lovre said. “Then the child goes home and has peace. Now with cyberbullying you don’t get a break 24/7.”
Compounding the problem is the ability for anyone to find out what a cyberbully said. Lovre noted that previously if a bully said something about you on the playground only a handful of people might hear it.
“Now everybody hears it (online),” Lovre said.
Parents and other adults often tell students being cyberbullied to block the individuals bothering them. Lovre said this is not a solution because if students block everything for a night, they will not know what people wrote about them online, causing anxiety when they return to school the next day.
“They don’t know what had been said about them. They will feel vulnerable,” Lovre said. “We are not perceiving the totality of their angst.”
The crisis management specialist said parents need to realize it is hard to get children who are targets of cyberbullying to talk about it. The key is engaging children in a conversation they feel in control of.
“Instead of asking about it, make the kid the expert,” Lovre said. “Say, ‘Tell me what it is like online. What do people do for fun? What unkind things do people write?’”
Parents should remain in a question-asking mode after initiating the conversation about cyberbullying.
“As soon as the child thinks you are giving advice we’ve lost. But if we ask questions and help kids come up with answers, they will have a sense of ownership,” she said.
Cyberbullying is a difficult issue for schools to tackle because so much of it goes on away from school, she said.
“It is a not a school problem, it is a societal and a cultural problem,” Lovre said.
She said if a community thinks the issue can only be addressed by its schools, no progress will be made.
“If the community says the school should fix it, there is no hope,” Lovre said.
“I feel there is hope to the degree there is community engagement.”