With use of social networking sites and apps at an all-time high, it's easy for kids to interact with one another all day and night. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of modern bullying takes place. It's important to talk to your children about how they're feeling in regard to their classmates, their friends and their teachers. As a parent, you naturally want to make sure your child is following the rules. But you also want to create a relationship in which they feel they can tell you things without you overreacting. Creating that kind of relationship takes listening and patience, developing trust that they can come to you, whatever their issue, and nurturing that communication on a consistent basis.
As far as social networking goes, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all public, as is YouTube; in fact, YouTube now requires users to link a Google account to their name so that they can't be as anonymous as they once were. You can monitor your child on all of these sites, and of course, you can see who is commenting on their sites and apps, as well.
Snapchat is the latest app to gain huge popularity. That's where things get a little harder to track because 1) Snapchat stories and photos disappear after 24 hours and 2) you can privately share photos and stories with individuals (but unlike Facebook, Instagram and others, Snapchat leaves no trace).
You shouldn't rely just on tracking your child's online activity. Face-to-face communication and paying attention to how your child is feeling are more important.
For example, if your kid is usually peppy and upbeat but then suddenly starts to isolate, seem moody or unhappy, or ask for new things that never seemed to interest him or her before, there's a chance that your child is the brunt of some mean-spirited antics at school. On the other hand, if he or she is more of a leader and you notice that there is a certain attitude of superiority when talking about the other students in his or her class, you may want to ask about bullying. That behavior can be even harder to pin down, as it would result in negative consequences. This encourages your child to keep quiet. But there are strategic ways to get answers to both of these questions, and often those answers come from the simple art of listening.
Know the kids from your child's classrooms or sporting activities. Ask questions about them. You can keep this generic if you'd like: "So, who are your best friends? Are there any kids who drive you crazy? Why?" While it's important to set the standard for discipline, parents often forget how powerful it is for their children to know they're on their side. Kids will often hold back because they don't think their parents will believe them or understand them and what they're experiencing.
A lot of popular YouTubers and social media influencers are standing up to bullies and sharing their own stories. If you're having trouble connecting directly with your children, share these campaign videos with them to let them know they're not alone. And if they are the bully, these videos will help show them how much their actions and words can hurt others, perhaps giving them the wake-up call they need. Google "anti-bullying" and you will come across a multitude of powerful, positive video and photo content. There's also a newer TV show called "Characters Unite," where famous NFL players team up with kids being bullied across the country, sharing their own stories of how they also were bullied as kids and the ways they can overcome it.
By encouraging your children to celebrate differences and supporting them to stand up for others if they are being pushed around, you can instill some valuable lessons in your kids -- lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime.