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From tweens to teens to young adults, girls usually have it worse when it comes to faceless bullies online according to Cyberbullying Research Center. The impact of digital hate is hurting our youth, especially our girls. Some headlines of young suicides don’t have teen in them anymore, because they don’t make it to their teenage years. It’s a tragedy since many are related to online harassment.
In a culture of online hate, having the skills to combat cruelty and harassment isn’t a small task. From cyber-predators to sexting scandals to slut pages – young girls need to be empowered and equipped to know they are never alone in today’s virtual playground. Here are five strategies to teach your girls to stand up to cyberbullying.
- Being a cyber-mentor. A study reveals that cyberbullying is more common among friends (current or former) than strangers. So it’s high time for teens to become “cyber-mentors” for each other. Through cyber-mentoring, a girl can feel encouraged and empowered to make a real difference online. This is also important when they are feeling pressured online or in conflict and may not want to go to their parents. As much as we have preached to our children to tell a trusted adult, studies reveal many turn to their peers if they are being harassed. It’s important they talk to someone and that person is a cyber-mentor that knows to tell an adult.
- Quality over quantity. One way to reduce your risk of cyberbullying is to weed out your friends list. Girls are quick to consider how many LIKEs or friends they have versus the quality of people they have in their circle. The old cliché — you are who you hang with, is not only true, it can land you in troubled waters if one friend turned foe lifts an image and quickly turns it into a mean meme. Make it a habit not to friend every request you receive.
- Sharing too much. According to a UCLA study, people who overshare are less likely to receive empathy or help if they are victims of harassment. With or without this study, everyone needs to pause before they post, send an email or text. Consider the long-lasting impact. Fifteen minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of humiliation.
- Building digital resilience. Generations earlier we were taught that words would never hurt us, today we know differently. We must remind our girls that the bullies on the other side of the screen are usually suffering too. Bullies can sometimes be victims in other ways in their home life. Helping our girls know that the online hate is not personal can take some of the sting out – and build compassion towards others that are hurting.
- Saying no to nudes. Sexting might be the new flirting but we must empower our girls to know it’s okay to say no when they are constantly pressured to send sexual images. In Shame Nation we discussed one of the largest sexting scandals that happened in a middle and high school in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Peer pressure can be difficult — in a 2015 survey of teens by Dr. Englander 70 percent of sexters felt coerced to send the sexual image. Sexting expert, Dr. Michelle Drouin shared in Shame Nation that parents need to give their girls a way out. They can tell whoever is asking that their parent monitors all their activity and if they are caught they will lose their phone. As one teen said in my book, we also have to start telling boys to stop asking for them. Hear, hear!
Sue Scheff is a nationally recognized author, family internet safety and parent advocate who founded Parents’ Universal Resources Experts, Inc. (P.U.R.E.) in 2001. She has been featured on 20/20, The Rachel Ray Show, ABC News, Anderson Cooper, CBS Nightly News, Katie Couric, Dr. Phil, CBC, CNN, Fox News, BBC, NPR and others discussing topics of Internet defamation, cyberbullying, cyber safety as well as her work helping troubled teens and their families through her organization.
This piece was originally published on MEDIAGIRLS.ORG and is republished with permission. Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.
She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.
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