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Teens are being bullied online more than ever. This is the one lesson they need now.

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Dr. Meg Meeker

According to recent Pew Research, a reported 59 percent of teens have been bullied online. The different types of bullying include, offensive name-calling, spreading of rumors and being sent explicit, unsolicited images. Of these different types of online bullying, offensive name-calling is the most common, with 42 percent of teens reporting they have experienced this.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. With the rise of social media in teens and online bullying, we have never needed this awareness month more. In the past, kids could only be bullied when they were at school or with other kids. Now, they can be bullied anywhere anytime on their own phones.

This same research also showed that most teens don’t think politicians, teachers and social media companies are doing a good enough job to prevent this type of bullying. Parents, don’t let the same thing be said about you. If the big companies like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat aren’t going to own up, we parents can do everything we can to help prevent our child from being bullied and to make sure we don’t raise a bully.

How do we do this?

I recently interviewed psychologist Dr. Josh Straub on this topic. One of the big points he makes is that social media is causing teens to lose empathy. In our interview, he talked about a study done on college students. The study found that over the past 30 years, self-centeredness has increased by 40 percent in students and empathy has decreased by 30 percent. This lack of empathy is a product of an internet culture that teaches kids they are the center of the universe and distances them from real relationships and face-to-face conversations.

With this lack of empathy and face-to-face connection, it has become easier and easier for kids to bully other kids online. It has even become common to share videos of bullying, so the whole school can see, causing kids to be desensitized to inappropriate and cruel behavior.

If a lack of empathy is at the core of the problem, teaching our kids to have empathy is the solution.

As a parent, one of the most important things you can do is teach your child how to respect other kids. Talk with your kids about what life must be like for their best friends, for someone you meet at a ball game, etc. Take the time to ask your kids questions about others by saying, “I wonder if Johnny sees his parents much” or “I heard that Ellie’s father passed away a few years ago, I wonder how she’s doing.” Simply by asking thought-provoking questions, you can help your kids begin to see how other kids live.

If a lack of empathy is at the core of the problem, teaching our kids to have empathy is the solution.

Dr. Straub also suggests asking your kids how they can use technology to build others up instead of tearing them down.

How could your teen spread a positive message online or compliment a friend? How could he use his feed and social media presence to make someone else feel loved and uplifted, rather than making it all about himself and his own image?

Perhaps your teen could even identify a cause she is passionate about and start using her social media to talk about it.

Online bullying for teens is a serious issue. Politicians and social media companies need to be held responsible, but even if we don’t have much control over what they do, we have control over what happens in our homes and how our teens use social media.

Use National Bullying Prevention Month as an opportunity to teach your teen about empathy and using social media for good. Social media probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so make sure your teen knows he can be an advocate rather than a victim and a change-maker rather than bully. This generation is our future. Let’s raise them well.

Social media probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so make sure your teen knows he can be an advocate rather than a victim and a change-maker rather than bully.

To learn more about what you can do about bullying as a parent, check out my ebook: Bullying: What Every Parent Can Do About It.

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