Imagining what your child can encounter online is enough to send any parent into a panic — predators, inappropriate content, and of course cyberbullying. Now, one of social media's biggest contenders is standing up to do something about it. On Wednesday, according to USA Today, it was announced that Facebook implemented a new plan to combat cyberbullying by partnering with PTA Connected. Facebook and PTA Connected will host 200 Digital Family Community Events in all 50 states to help parents understand issues surrounding the ever growing problem of cyberbullying.
The point is to get parents together face-to-face to discuss their fears and solutions for preventing cyberbullying on both the side of the bully and those being bullied, according to PTA Connected. And it's never too early to start the conversation at home, and you don't have to be the parent of a teen to participate.
"Parents often look to other parents for guidance or to their friends or to the person in their play group with them," Antigone Davis, Facebook's Head of Global Safety, said in an interview with USA Today. "We are really about getting those conversations going early. When your kids hit those teen years, it gets significantly harder because they separate their identity from yours."
In order to host a Digital Families Community Event, a school's PTA must apply for funding through PTA Connected's website, which will make them eligible for a $1,000 grant plus training to hold one of these meeting in their communities during the 2018-2019 school year. But, if schools want to host such an event, they'll want to apply ASAP since funding will only be given to 200.
There are three main objectives to these community meetings, according to PTA Connected:
- Allowing parents a safe place to network and converse about worries and successes in parenting in a digital world.
- Expose parents to research-based best practices for children's screen time and tools for handling parent-child interactions.
- Empower parents and families with resources and research that they can bring into their own homes and share with family and friends.
Additionally, as Facebook shared in a press release for the collaboration:
These Digital Families Community Events are designed to help families address tech-related challenges, from online safety and bullying prevention, to digital and news literacy. The events ... are part of a grant program open to all PTAs so parents can get research-backed best practices and tools to help them have important conversations with their children about technology.
Events like this are important, because the statistics are startling. Nearly 50 percent of kids have been cyber-bullied and 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once, according to DoSomething.org. And given the fact that 80 percent of tweens and teens have cell phones, according to DoSomething.org, it makes this medium ripe for cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can have short-term effects ranging from poor school performance, lack of self esteem, aggression, depression and even bed wetting, according to Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Katie Hurley, in a report for Psycom, writing:
It is imperative that schools, families, and communities work together to understand bullying and its consequences and find ways to decrease, and hopefully eradicate, bullying both in schools and communities.
Cyberbullying is on the rise, according to a report by CBS News, and it's a huge concern for both parents and teens. One look at Twitter, where #cyberbullying frequently trends, will show you just how important this topic is.
The more parents and teens talk about cyberbullying, the better prepared they will be if it happens. And these Facebook PTA Connected Digital Families community meetings will only help move the conversation along. The world is a much different place for kids now, and it's up to parents to stay connected to today's digital dangers.