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Red Cross warns of back-to-school bullying

August 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By SCOTT TAYLOR

Tuesday will be the end of summer sun for thousands of students as backpacks get stocked for the new school year that’s beginning. But lurking under the excitement who of who is going to be in who’s class and how some kids have changed over the summer is the very real menace of bullying.

For parents, or even grandparents, bullying a generation or two ago meant long, horrible days at school. There was some relief when they arrived home and closed the front door behind them, thereby shutting out the rest of the world.

Thanks to technology today, that door might as well not even be there. Through social media, texting, direct messaging and more, the bullying never ends. It continues around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That’s why the Canadian Red Cross is campaigning to educate both students and their parents on how bullying occurs and what to do about it.

Amy Newman is a master instructor trainer with Respect Education with the Red Cross.

“There are the added pressures now of not only getting your reading, writing and arithmetic, now it’s also what technology are you coming to school with, do you have a new phone, how are you using it and communicating in a healthy way?” she said. “The difference now is it doesn’t turn off. If you were being called a rude name or a mean name at school, you could huff and puff on your way home from school and then say to your parents ‘I don’t want to take any calls tonight.’ Then you have that down time to re-centre yourself, to try to think of some strategies for how you’re going to deal with that person the next day, but now it’s a constant dinging and pinging and if you’re not part of the conversation that’s happening about you online, if you’re not there to defend yourself or defend someone you care about . . . What parents will often do is when they hear that there’s something going on, they say ‘Forget it, we’re taking away your technology.’ But the better option is to recognize that online communication is a really important part of our kids’ social lives.”

Rather than take the phone away, sit down and talk with your kids about what they’re experiencing online, both good and bad, have conversations with your kids about possible scenarios, such as how they would respond if someone was picking on them online.

“Kids love to be smarter than their parents, so give them the chance to show you something. How would you block that person or where would you go to report somebody? They want to show you so take that opportunity to see how savvy they are and safe they’re keeping themselves. Certainly, be aware of what sites they’re on, what blogs, chatrooms, video games.”

An added danger is what gets posted can never be taken back. The user’s footprint will be there forever.

“Once something is posted, it’s there forever,” Newman warned. “So if it’s their first volunteer job and someone is looking them up and they see some rude comments . . . Someone who might be so brave to say something in person, they’re doing it online. They’re being unkind because they don’t have to look at somebody’s eyes and see their face go red. It’s easier to be brave and throw a comment out there.”

At night, Newman suggests kids go to bed without their phones in order to completely divest themselves from the ongoing conversation, which can hinder sleep.

“Having technology is a privilege, not a right that every child has, so just understanding that. Making really clear and calm rules in the house about how technology can be used.”

In fact, parents can ensure all the phones get left in a single room, charging up overnight.

And remember, screenshots are evidence and witnesses to bullying are crucial.

         

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