Today’s youth are more connected than ever. From submitting homework online, to watching YouTube or sharing moments over Snapchat, they’re almost always dialed-in. For many students, the Internet acts as one, big high school cafeteria that never turns off. While it can be fun, this also means that bullying is no longer confined to school grounds and some children can endure the torment and relentless bullying 24/7.
It should come as no surprise that prolonged bullying can have a serious effect on one’s mental health. That’s why TELUS WISE works closely with Carol Todd and the Amanda Todd Legacy to provide resources to help keep families and youth safe online.
This October 10 marks the third annual Light Up Purple campaign in support of World Mental Health Day; a day for global mental health education awareness and advocacy. Each year, people around the world are encouraged to Light Up Purple for World Mental Health Day and shed light on mental health and bullying. Canadians can show their support on Twitter and Instagram by sharing purple images and using #LIGHTUPPURPLE.
Mental health and cyberbullying are important topics for Canadians and are integral components of our TELUS WISE program. Amanda’s story and Carol’s perseverance has moved me and I wanted to share Carol’s insights on the issue of cyberbullying with all of you.
Can you tell us about Light Up Purple and the connection to World Mental Health Day?
It’s an ironic coincidence that not only is October 10 World Mental Health Day, but it’s also the same date that Amanda became an angel in this world. It is with these two dates in mind that Light Up Purple was created in 2013 to recognize and share the importance of mental health and wellness.
We hear about cyberbullying often now. How can parents address cyberbullying with their kids?
We certainly hear a lot about cyberbullying, but we also have to know that as frightening as it may be, it’s a very good thing that it’s being talked about. It’s not just happening in one city or country, it has become a global problem.
Parents can take action by maintaining open communication with their children and building strong, trusting relationships so that conversations around online safety are a comfort zone, not a zone of awkwardness. It’s extremely important to maintain trust so kids can immediately get help from a parent if and when something arises. They need to be encouraged to talk to their parents and trusted adults, judgment-free.
What can parents do if their child is being cyberbullied by a peer or stranger?
- Document everything, big or small. Talk to your child about how long it has been going on and record a timeline of events. Take screenshots of the malicious behaviour and save it to your computer or a flash drive that you can take with you when reporting the cyberbullying.
- Report the behaviour to the website/app. The website or app can then take steps to address the situation. If a peer is bullying them, make their school aware of the situation so that they may deal with the students who are responsible.
- Contact police and file a report. Depending on the severity of the bullying and whether or not the previous steps were able to eliminate the issue, it may be necessary to contact the police and report the bullying.
- Learn coping strategies. Programs like TELUS WISE and Kids Help Phone are great resources to help families learn how to cope and overcome the impact of cyberbullying.
No parent wants to believe their child is the bully. What tips do you have for parents of children who have displayed acts of bullying to peers or strangers?
Ask your kids to think about how they want to be treated by others, and to think about respectful behaviours. In other words, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want done to yourself.
If you have copies of texts or messages they have sent others that are hurtful, have them read them out loud. Hearing them out loud can help them understand why it’s not okay to treat others that way.
Ask them what their intention was by treating the person the way they were online. Ask them how and why this behaviour is different from how they might treat a teacher, a friend or a family member.
If they are saying something that they cannot proudly tell their entire extended family or school principal, then it probably isn’t something they should be saying to their peers. By having these conversations you can help them realize that what they might be saying can be cruel and hurtful.