Cyberbullying still on minds of some

Local counsellor has some advice for families in regards to online behaviour and monitoring

Rod Chant, a family counsellor at Strathcona Counselling has some terrible statistics to share.

He tried to share them – as well as some bits of advice for parents – at the Robron Centre on Tuesday evening, as part of National Bullying Awareness Week, but was instead met with an empty room and one lowly Campbell River Mirror reporter.

He plans to try his presentation again in the near future, and is hoping for a better turnout, as there’s an important issue that he feels gets lost in the debate surrounding children and the online world – that being parental responsibility.

According to Mediasmarts, the not-for-profit charity who bills itself as Canada’s centre for digital and media literacy, 88 per cent of kids report having seen “meanness” in their everyday usage of the Internet, which they use on average for 11.5 hours per week, “and I would say that’s a conservative estimate,” Chant said.

The same source says that one in four teens report having been victims of cyberbullying, and one in six admitted to having cyberbullied someone else online.

Chant feels the most important and positive way that we, as a society, can address this issue, is by encouraging positivity in our children and encouraging them to engage in open and honest conversation with the authority figures in their lives – most importantly their parents.

“It’s about taking the time to listen to your kids, and making sure they feel supported and validated by coming to someone when they’re concerned about something,” he said.

He said that too many parents “should” on their kids too often, meaning they lecture them or assess blame using “you should have,” type statements, which doesn’t encourage productive conversation.

It comes down to openness and honesty, and encouraging those behaviours in your children early on, he said.

Part of that openness is fostered by parents “leading by example,” he said.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen parents at the park with their kids,” he said, “and they’re on their phone while the kid is trying to get them to play with them.”

That type of behaviour from parents not only encourages their kids to immerse themselves in the online world rather than engage positively with those around them, but also discourages them from coming to their parents when something is bothering them, he said, because they will turn back to online support instead, as that’s where they will feel most accepted.

“It’s about instilling within children the ability to make good, positive choices early on in life,” he said, “and developing within them an understanding that you’re also there to support them when they make ones that maybe aren’t so good.”

It’s about openness, support and encouragement, Chant said, rather than discipline and blame.

This will help ensure that when problems arise in their lives – online or off – they will come to you to talk about it before it gets too far out of hand, possibly ending tragically, as it does for far too many families these days.

Watch your social media stream for the upcoming discussion Chant will be putting on, as there will be plenty of opportunity, he said, for people to talk about struggles and challenges they’ve had with monitoring their children’s online presence and suggestions to be shared to mitigate some of the communication difficulties that parents often have with their kids, especially in regards to technology and parental oversight of its use.

You can also contact Chant directly for more information by calling his office at 250-286-0820 or by email at chant@strathconacounselling.ca