social change | May 14, 2013

How Parents Can Stop Cyberbullying: Emily Bazelon On Morning Joe

Emily Bazelon, speaker on bullying and author of Sticks and Stones, says that we're not necessarily experiencing a bullying epidemic or a sharp rise in the number of kids being bullied. What we are seeing, however, is a different kind of bullying. As she told the panel during a recent appearance on Morning Joe, the primary form of bullying in the past would generally be physical violence. Today, however, kids are being bullied not only in person, but online as well. The primary difference between physical bullying and cyberbullying, she explains, is that the latter can occur 24/7. Because of the ease of access to the internet and the popularity of smartphones, kids can feel as though they have no respite from their attackers.

It's important to note that combating the effects of cyberbullying requires a unified effort by both school administrators and parents. Since a lot of bullying carries on after the bell rings, Bazelon says parents have to help their kids as much as teachers do. "One thing that's important especially when kids are getting their first phones, and are first venturing into social media, is to go with them...[and] guide them through the process," Bazelon suggests. Don't just throw them into it headfirst, she cautions. Rather, show them the ropes and monitor what's happening on the sites your kids are visiting.

Kids also need to learn the importance of intervening when they see bullying taking place. "Studies show that bullying takes place in front of an audience of kids almost all the time," she says, "but kids only intervene 20 per cent of the time. And yet when they do, they're able to stop the bullying in half of those cases." There's a real opportunity, she adds, to show kids how to stop bullying from happening. However, Bazelon also stresses that you don't want to be too overbearing and need to give your kids some space. Parents need to strike a balance between teaching and protecting their kids without stifling their ability to grow and become independent. In her popular book, Sticks and Stones, Bazelon digs deep into bullying. She approaches the subject from multiple angles and can customize her keynotes to many different audiences including kids, teachers, and parents of all ages.