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Dealing with Text Message Bullying

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Parents and teachers are becoming more and more savvy about protectingkids from cyber bullying—harassment using technology, such as email, instant messaging, or social networking sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to name a few. When kids have more unstructured time than usual, they are also at risk of exposure to bullying through text messaging (“text bullying”), or even being “sexted,” using the text-messaging feature on cell phones.

“Sexting” is sending nude or sexually suggestive pictures and accompanyingtext via cell phone. Although the original “sexter” may only send the suggestive message to one person—a girlfriend or boyfriend, for example—that message can be forwarded to anyone in the recipient’s address book, and from there, all across a school or community. Once it’s out there, there’s no way to take back the message or the accompanying embarrassment or humiliation.

There are possible long-term consequences, too. Since school admissions officers and potential employers often look at online profiles, the repercussions of sending an inappropriate message could be endless. And one newspaper reports that sexters can “face felony charges for child pornography” (Borgman, 2009), landing them on the registry for sexual predators, a label they’ll bear for the rest of their lives.

What Kids Can Do About It

You can coach kids to use the same problem-solving skills for text bullying that they would use in any other situation. The more they think before pressing the “send” key, the less likely they will be to disseminate a photo or message that will get them in trouble and ruin their reputation.

When kids receive harassing or inappropriate text messages, there are several things they can do:

• Never, ever respond to the message sender.

• Report it as soon as possible to a trusted adult (and if that person doesn’t help, tell others until someone does).

• Save or print the message to keep a record, then delete it from the phone.

• Only keep contact information of close friends and family in their address book.

• Talk to their wireless provider about how they can help (such as blocking the messages or changing their number).

What Parents Can Do About It

If critical thinking is a kid’s best defense against text bullying, communication is yours. Just as you talk to your kids about sex, relationships, and drugs, it’s also important to talk to them about how they use their phones, and with whom.

As the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy puts it, “Supervising and monitoring your kids’ whereabouts in real life and in cyberspace doesn’t make you a nag; it’s just part of your job as a parent”

It’s best not to take away kids’ phone privileges when they come to you with a text-bullying problem. That might make them feel as if they’re being punished for someone else’s transgression. Here are some things you can do instead:

• Talk to your kids about text bullying and sexting, especially the short- and long-term consequences.

• Monitor their cell phone use: Who are they texting? Who is texting them?

• Suggest that everyone’s cell phone stay on the kitchen counter or another centralized place while they’re home.

• Set rules about the kind of behavior that is and is not acceptable—on a cell phone, or anywhere else. Remind kids of the rules periodically.

Remember Your Grandma

Lastly, here’s a yardstick we can all use to measure our cell phone and cyberspace behavior: if you would be embarrassed to have your grandmother read it, you should probably not write it, and you should report it if you receive it.

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Amy Benningfield Guidance Counselor Dr. N.E. Roberts Elementary School, Florida

At Omegaman & Friends School Shows, we understand the importance of setting expectations and proactively addressing behavioral issues in schools. That's why our school assemblies are the perfect addition to your Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. Our presentations are designed to complement a school's efforts to promote positive behavior and prevent bullying.

Our assemblies provide a shared positive experience for students and staff, creating a foundation upon which a successful PBIS program can be built. Our engaging and interactive presentations are tailored to the needs of each school and are designed to teach students important skills such as empathy, respect, and responsibility.

With the Omegaman & Friends School Assembly, you can be sure that your students will be entertained, engaged, and inspired. Our team of professional performers has years of experience working with schools and delivering impactful messages that resonate with students.

So if you're looking for a way to enhance your school's PBIS program, look no further than Omegaman & Friends School Assembly.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your school promote positive behavior PBIS and prevent bullying.

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