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Home : News : News
NEWS | July 23, 2018

Parents learn strategies to fight online bullying at Vogel Resiliency Center workshop

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Parents learned about skills and strategies they can utilize in protecting their children from dangers posed by social media and online bullying at a workshop hosted by the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Vogel Resiliency Center July 16.

The free workshop, “Social Media Safety and Bullying,” provided information and resources to JBSA parents about the risks and benefits of social media, tips and suggestions on how children can use social media safely and what online bullying is, behaviors children show when they are being bullied and how children can overcome bullying.

Donnell Dawson, JBSA Family Life lead program educator and workshop instructor, cited a Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2015 that found 91 percent of teenagers have access to the internet on a mobile device and that they averaged 30 texts a day.

Dawson said online technology is constantly changing and children are keeping up with those changes in utilizing social media.

“Things shift very quickly, especially with technology and especially with our children,” she said. “They are definitely more adept at seeing those changes more quickly.”

Dawson told parents strategies they can utilize to help their children protect themselves online are educating themselves about social media, taking a proactive approach by talking to their children and monitoring what they view on social media and learning how to identify high risk behaviors of children who are being bullied.

She handed the parents a list of 21 apps they should be aware of and went over the apps most used by children, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat, and the risks those apps pose to children.

“Internet safety is very different than what it used to be,” Dawson said. “Now the apps have several different ways (children) can interact with people and themselves.”

Risks to teenagers who use the apps include being followed by strangers, potential privacy issues, location tracking, mature content, private messaging and sexting, especially with Snapchat.

Dawson said parents should know the apps their children are using and adjust privacy, parental and security settings to protect their children’s information and reduce the risks of it being exposed. Dawson also suggested setting time limits and boundaries on internet usage at home, adjusting app settings on what their children can download and knowing their children’s passwords.

In addition, Dawson said parents need to be on the lookout for apps that can be used by children to hide photos, files and videos, including Audio Manager, which is shaped like a speaker, and Calculator%, which looks like a smartphone calculator.

Dawson said communication is important for parents in helping to keep their children safe online. She said parents need to have conversations about internet and social media safety with their children, including working with the children to come up with a plan to respond to inappropriate material online.

Parents should also warn their children to be careful on what they post online, said Dawson, noting that social media posts give perceptions about the person who is posting it to the public.

“Children have a perception, and adults do as well, as to what somebody’s life is like through social media,” she said. “Is what you post about yourself actually who you are? That’s what I like to challenge children and challenge parents with. Are you who you pose? Helping them see how perceptions can change interactions with photos is very important. It’s a good conversation to have and good conversation starter.”

Other risks and dangers that can come about using social media include cyberbullying, damaged reputations, isolation and suicide.

Dawson said cyberbullying is the most prevalent and biggest issue when it comes to social media. The side effects and behaviors of children who are bullied include helplessness, humiliation, isolation and humiliation.

Also, children who are bullied online want to deal with it on their own, could feel that no one cares for them and fear backlash if they try to do something about it.

Dawson said parents whose children are being bullied need to understand what they are experiencing by talking to them. She said parents need to empower and encourage their children to have a voice in standing up against bullying and feel confident in themselves in doing so.

Parent Geremy Chavez, a mother of three children, said it is important for parents to have a personal conversation with their children about bullying.

“Having a conversation with your kids about when I was a kid, I would get bullied,” Chavez said. “When somebody is going through a hard thing, it’s just letting them know they are not alone and if you could give a specific example of who or what else is happening so that they can relate to it a little bit and know, ‘Well, maybe you do understand it, mom or dad.’”