Now, I know what you’re thinking. Do we really need another article on cyber bullying? Don’t parent magazines cover this enough? Don’t they talk about this all the time in schools?
Well, yes and no. It’s true: cyber bullying is not a new phenomenon. Kids do hear about it in school. Parents read about it. But as we’re learning how to navigate the new reality of digital learning environments, the most recent research suggests that cyber bullying is actually on the rise.
The Truth About Cyber Bullying
Here are just a few snippets we’ve found:
- Because of the COVID-19 pandemic lock downs, people worldwide, including kids, are spending 20 percent more time on social media than they were pre-pandemic.
- In another study, 70 percent of parents estimated that their kids spend at least four hours a day with screens. Before the pandemic, 60 percent of parents estimated that their kids spent three hours or less in front of screens.
- 7 out of 10 kids are cyberbullied before the age of 18.
- 7 out of 10 kids have rumors spread about them online.
That’s a significant percentage. Large enough that if a child hasn’t been bullied themselves, chances are pretty high they know someone who has. And more than likely, a child who attends your weekly services is experiencing bullying of some sort.
What the Church Can Do About Cyber Bullying
As you’re continuing to reimagine what it looks like to create a safe place for kids to experience faith, here are a few things to consider.
Build a structure in your ministry that will offer support for families.
Enlist consistent leaders.
When kids have a trusted leader who knows them and where they live, kids are more likely to be honest about what’s happening in their lives. Kids may not attend as consistently as they used to, but they’ll feel at home seeing a face they recognize when they do arrive. Consider creating virtual small groups for kids who can’t come regularly on Sundays. Every kid needs the chance to have a caring adult in their life.
Keep leaders informed.
Volunteers aren’t always aware of the warning signs that a child is being bullied. Take time to talk about cyber bullying and how to spot if a child is struggling in this area. Have a plan in place for when a child tells you that they’re being bullied. A few of the warning signs might include:
- Making excuses for not wanting to participate
- Losing interest or motivation in school
- Appearing sad, moody, or depressed for an extended time
- Showing up with unexplained scrapes or bruises
- Seeming unusually anxious
- Complaining of headaches, body aches, stomach aches
- Suffering from low self-esteem in how they talk about themselves
Partner with parents on cyber bullying.
While there are many resources on cyber bullying, parents might feel like they’re alone. They’re not sure how to talk about it with their kids. They might not know how to reach out for help. Create a support system for parents to connect with others who can help them understand what to do when they discover that their child is being bullied or is the bully.
Another resource that you can share with parents is the new course created by Parent Cue, “Parenting In A Tech World.” This course gives parents and caregivers strategies and insights to parent confidently in a technology-dependent world. If your church would like to provide a discount code for your parents, please email [email protected] and we will set it up for you!
Use weekly programming to promote healthy relationships.
Remind kids how valuable they are. When kids show up at church, welcome them with open arms. Use words of affirmation to let them know how amazing they are. Tell them they have a purpose, and God loves them! Provide opportunities for kids to encourage each other during small group. It’s one thing for an adult to tell them they are amazing; it’s even more special to hear a peer say it.
Help kids discover how they should treat one another.
Kids are sometimes told not to bully without being taught how they should treat others. One of the reasons Orange Kids elementary curriculum is structured around “life apps” is to help kids understand how they can reflect and respond to the character of God. As you share the stories and principles from the Bible, kids will see how they can show love and compassion, kindness and peace, friendship and honor. This will give them the skills they need to respond to others well and prevent bullying in the future.
Empower kids to do the right thing.
We can teach them to stick up for one another and help them discover how God can help them find courage and confidence to do the right thing. We want to help kids know how to make wise choices to help their friends deal with bullying. Talk with them about finding a trusted adult to help. Help them discover God’s strength to do the right thing. We recently published Press Play, an interactive devotional to help kids learn more about confidence to be themselves, trust God no matter what, and stick up for others when they see someone in need.
Your church has a unique opportunity to speak truth into the lives of families in your area. Be the place where kids and families can experience God’s love and the life-changing message of Jesus. Create a safe environment where kids can be themselves, find encouragement, and know they have people in their corner beyond a shadow of a doubt.