"I can't believe she still thinks we are friends. Like, I've told her over and over again. She keeps begging for my attention with texts and tweets. She wants me to accept her apology for talking to MY boyfriend."
While this sounds harmless, the situation went downhill quickly. In a matter of seconds, all of the teenagers were on twitter. They decided what statements they would make simultaneously and of course tag her in each post. In a matter of minutes, I hear the following:
"Oh my gosh! Now she is texting me pictures with teary eyed faces. She so does not get it! I just want her to leave me alone."
One would think that maybe, just maybe, these teenagers would stop. No! They devised yet another message to tweet and then they all sent her texts that were terrible, "Don't bother us anymore! You're not worth it."
Now you might say that I do not know both sides of the story. You are right! I do not know the entire story but I know that cyber bullying was happening through Twitter and texts right next to me. I finally just took my earbuds out, closed my computer and stared the teenagers down. No words work spoken - just a look. They quickly packed up their things and left.
So where do we go with this? Is this a concern for us? Has this happened to your child? Maybe so? Maybe not? You do not know for sure?
Thankfully, Twitter has offered us some suggestions:
Encourage critical thinking
Take the opportunity to not only learn about the sorts of situations your child is experiencing online but also use these to identify solutions and encourage critical thinking. Ask them questions like:
Who are you sharing this information with?
Can you trust all the people that see the information on your Twitter account?
How could your Tweet be interpreted?
Think before tweeting
As parents, you may have seen children say or write things that were not meant to be hurtful but that others found offensive or upsetting. Help your child evaluate whether or not something is okay to post by reminding them that if they wouldn't say it to the person's face or out loud, they shouldn't say it online either.
The nature of the Internet makes it difficult to completely erase content. Consider having a conversation about how what gets posted online can hurt feelings, affect offline relationships and even jeopardize future opportunities.
Remember Twitter is a public space
Most of the communication taking place on Twitter is viewable to everyone. Since the information posted is public, it can be retweeted on the site by anyone who sees it.
While Tweets can be protected so only approved followers can see them, most users share their Tweets with everyone. If your child wants their Tweets to only be available to approved followers, they can protect their Tweets.
Use online safety to connect with your child
Teens in particular may feel like parents are disconnected from their perspective and fear conversations about online safety will be awkward or embarrassing. Listen to how your child is using Twitter and other online mediums. Take their online relationships seriously, ask questions and perhaps even brainstorm together to come up with solutions to safety issues they have encountered. You most likely do this with their non digital relationships.
Block and ignore
If your child receives unwanted tweets from another Twitter user, we generally recommend that he or she block that user and end communication. Ignoring the content shows unwillingness to engage in such interaction, and in most cases, the aggressor loses interest. This Twitter Support article explains how to block other users.