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By Jenna Kruse, MSW – July 9, 2019

Technology has become a large part of our society; we depend on it to learn, inform, and connect with others daily. However, it can have negative effects as well.         

Most of us probably know a young child who watches YouTube regularly. How often do we stop to watch and closely monitor what is on the screen?

A growing trend with children on YouTube is the fascination of watching other children play with toys. There is a countless supply of these videos, such as, “Surprise Eggs” and “Finger Family” which each have hundreds of thousands of views.

YouTube also added an auto play feature which allows similar videos to stream one after the other, continuously. Kids are then exposed far beyond their initial search and are soon plagued by this technology.

Parents across the country can attest to the fighting and tantrums thrown when the tablets, phones, or iPads are taken away from the children because they are so entranced by the videos.

Social media is another black hole, typically for older children. Teens can be subjected to cyber bullying, stranger danger, identity theft, phishing, and sexual exploitation.

Apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Whisper, Twitter, and YouTube can all be dangerous for teens if used incorrectly. Many teens have several accounts, some of which include “ghost accounts” which are used to hide from their parents.

Children are being sexualized by photos of celebrities and are taught that appearance is what matters most. Pressure is put on both girls and boys to look a certain way and “likes” and “follows” become addictive for young teen brains. Children can feel they need to post sexy photos and say extreme things just for more attention.

Now that we know some of the problems with technology, let’s try to avoid them. We need to help and support our children by closely monitoring what they are doing online.

This can include having clear rules for children regarding social media, checking the web browser regularly, activating privacy settings and parental controls on devices, and installing anti-virus hardware on your computer.

Talking openly to your children is the best way to ensure that they know the harms of the internet and social media. These may be uncomfortable topics, but they are very important for their safety. It is much better to have these conversations before a situation occurs rather than after.

There are many safety apps which help parents monitor and control their children’s online usage. These apps include but are not limited to, Netnanny, Mammabear, SafeKidsPro, Social Shield, WebWatcher, MyMobileWatchDog, Teensafe, and Phonesheriff. Each app is unique in what it helps control, so find the one that will work best for your family.

By Youth First Staff – July 17, 2018 –

Bullying is not a new problem. Children, parents, teachers, and other school staff have always dealt with incidents on the playground or name-calling on the bus, but these days bullying no longer ends with the school day.

Technology provides many positive benefits in our personal lives and educational system. Cyberbullying, however, is one negative outgrowth of 24/7 connectivity.

The term cyberbullying is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously.”

With social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and the ability to share photos and videos via social media and text, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the rapid growth of cyberbullying.

According to the DoSomething.org, at least 43% of American teens have been bullied online, and 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.  Seventy percent of students report seeing frequent bullying online. Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying.

Victims of cyberbullying experience low self-esteem, increased use of drugs or alcohol, poor academic achievement, and anxiety or an unwillingness to attend school (stopcyberbullying.gov).

Because these acts do not typically happen on school grounds, it can be difficult for schools to intervene.  Parents must play a key role in educating children about acceptable uses of technology and what to do if they encounter cyberbullying.

Start by being involved in your child’s online life.  Know passwords, “friend” or “follow” them on social media sites, and look at websites your child frequents.

Educate children on how to use the internet safely and establish firm consequences if they abuse technological privileges.  Encourage children to protect passwords and avoid sharing them with peers (not even their best friends) or in public places. Make sure they don’t post any personal information on the internet such as a phone number, address, or even their favorite place to socialize.

Due to the fear of losing access to technology, only 1 in 10 students report telling their parents when they have been cyberbullied. It is important for children to feel comfortable coming to parents with this type of information.

Start by educating kids on what they should do if they encounter cyberbullying.  The website stopcyberbullying.org promotes the “stop, block, and tell” strategy.  Parents can easily share the following steps with their children:

1. Stop: Immediately stop interacting with a peer who is cyberbullying.  Encourage them to not respond to the peer in any way.

2. Block: Block the cyberbully from continuing to communicate.  Make sure children know how to block someone from their social networking sites or other technology.

3. Tell: As soon as they encounter a bully of any kind, children should tell their parents. Parents should remain calm, listen carefully, and involve the child in decisions about what to do next.

The next steps may be as simple as blocking a phone number or as involved as talking with your child’s school about the offense. Refrain from contacting the parents or guardians of the bully. They may become defensive and may not be receptive to your thoughts.

Sometimes just offering your child moral support is enough, but don’t hesitate to inform and involve others in order to put a stop to cyberbullying for good.

By Emily Sommers, Courier & Press, Jan. 10, 2017 –

At the beginning of a new school year, bullying prevention initiatives kick off to help students get the year off to a good start.

Bullying is defined as repeated, harmful behavior against someone. Schools have different ways of communicating the message of “no tolerance” for bullying and the school being a “bully-free zone.” This may include a guest speaker at a large school presentation or in-class/small group presentations involving the school counselor, home school advisor or Youth First school social worker.

As a Youth First social worker, I have been a part of both types of presentations as we seek to educate and refresh students on having a safe school. The goal is for students to take away information about the different types of bullying — physical, verbal  and relational.

We also discuss cyberbullying with our middle and high school students, as the use of technology and social media sites is on the rise and starting at an earlier age. According to cyberbullying.org, cyberbullying is “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.”

We discuss why bullying occurs and how it feels. We want students to know what is really behind the mask of a bully — a hurting person who is trying to gain power in a negative and hurtful way through their actions. We do this to foster compassion.

In the words of Lisa Seif, local private outpatient therapist and community advocate for our youth, bullies are “hurting people who hurt other people with their words and actions.” Bullies are experiencing their own inner conflict, and that is what is referred to as “behind the mask.”

We don’t typically have to spend a lot of time discussing how it feels to be bullied. A show of hands almost always reveals students present have either experienced bullying or witnessed it happening to someone else. Common reactions include fear, embarrassment, sadness, and anger.

 We talk about the “bystander,” who sits back and watches, versus the “upstander,” who takes appropriate action against what is happening to them or a fellow student.  We suggest ways students can take a stand, including confident action/attitude, nonthreatening communication, feelings statements, and simply walking away and not engaging.

Conclusion of bullying prevention presentations will typically include every school having a united front or a no-tolerance zone for bullying.

How can this be achieved? It is important to continue the conversation with students. Give them resources and talk about safe people inside and outside the school including parents, principals, vice-principals, teachers, counselors, home school advisors, Youth First school social workers, and friends who are making good decisions.

Youth and students are listening! They demonstrate insight every time we have this necessary conversation with them.

Parents, please help keep this conversation going throughout the school year.  Your child may need a refresher now that the year is half over. We need your help, as bullying is not isolated to the school community and often takes place outside of school.

Most importantly, bullying prevention is about being a friend to yourself first and establishing the necessary climate change “inside” so it transmits “outside” in the home, school, community  and in friendships and relationships. That means maintaining a healthy balance with the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual parts of ourselves.