As school districts close down in response to COVID-19 and students are shifting to e-learning, our children may be spending more time in front of screens than ever before. Though the digital world is helping us connect and learn more, it is also a space where we can encounter harmful behavior. It is critical that we engage our children in dialogue to keep them safe and encourage them to be responsible with what they share online.
To better protect your child, we urge you to learn more about digital awareness, monitor your child’s screen time and online activities, understand and set privacy settings, and establish rules with your child. Here are links to parental guides for Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Engage with them about their online experiences and specifically monitor for instances of cyberbullying. Make sure they know that you are not judging them, but rather wanting to engage in dialogue with them about their experiences.
Our surveys have shown that Sikh children get bullied up to twice as often as the national average. It may seem that there is less contact with other students right now, but the additional screen time and lack of classroom monitoring by a teacher may increase instances of cyberbullying. It is important that Sikh youth be able to identify the signs of cyberbullying--and that they know they can count on your support to help stop it. To that end, we want to share some critical information about cyberbullying to help you protect your children:
WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING
Bullying is hurtful behavior that is unwanted, aggressive, and repeated. This can be physical, verbal, social, or online. They are acts of power and can immediately cause shame, guilt, sadness, and anger. Bullying is not limited to children; adults can also bully children or other adults.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online and over digital devices. Examples of cyberbullying include hateful or mean texts, social media posts intended to spread rumors, embarrassing or fake images, or sexually explicit or threatening direct messages.
It is important to take cyberbullying, and bullying of any kind, seriously. Bullying can have a long-term impact on a child’s mental health, confidence, and relationships. It can affect their ability to concentrate on academics and extracurricular activities. And it can also cause a child to turn to bullying others, as a way to get power back and feel like they have control again.
WHAT YOUR CHILD AND YOU SHOULD DO
1. Do not engage, respond, or encourage the behavior.
2. Take screenshots and save everything. Make sure this includes text, images, dates, times, handles, and descriptions.
3. Block and report the person/post. The guides above can provide instructions on how to do this on each platform.
4. Report the incident immediately. Report to the school if the incident involves a student(s) from your child's school. Many states mandate that schools include cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policies. Make sure to file a formal complaint with the school district. You can also file a complaint with the Department of Justice by emailing email@example.com. You should also report to law enforcement if the message is threatening, sexually explicit, or suggests stalking.
5. Contact the Sikh Coalition. Especially if your child has been targeted in bias-based bullying, we can help you better understand your rights and navigate the next steps. You can reach us at www.sikhcoalition.org/legal-help/.
6. Talk to your child. Engage in open dialogue over the next several weeks to allow your child to express emotions freely, and closely monitor any follow-up after the incident. If needed, work with a trained professional to further support your child.
7. Join anti-bullying efforts. Ask your school and other parents for the district’s resources against bullying, and work collaboratively to better your school’s climate.
Given the current climate, we as parents have a lot to navigate. We hope this information provides you additional support. As always, the Sikh Coalition is here to support you in keeping your kids safe and happy at school--wherever that may be.
The Sikh Coalition
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