Search Results for 'bullying'

Breaking the Silence on Adult Bullies

Written on November 13, 2013 at 11:00 am , by

Bullying is not just child’s play. Jonathan Martin, a 300-pound tackle for the Miami Dolphins, recently took a break from playing professional football due to alleged bullying from a teammate. His complaints of harassment from, intimidation by and physical altercations with his colleague Richie Incognito typify the very definition of bullying.

Aside from their ages, the fact that their differences couldn’t be handled on their own highlights the destructiveness of bullying at any stage of life. Bullies make people change their attitudes, moods and behavior. They force others to quit, cry, get angry or depressed, withdraw or stay silent because being the victim of a bully is both painful and embarrassing. It’s hard for kids to speak up and even more difficult for adults. As we get older, there’s pressure to “suck it up” or “just deal with it.”

The perception that bullying stops in the schoolyard isn’t just challenged by what happens on the sports field. It’s also countered by the hordes of adults who report that they are bullied on the job by coworkers or bosses, older siblings who continue to harass younger siblings into adulthood and teens bullied by parents and coaches. Whether you are 12 or 42, bullying can be psychologically detrimental and physically painful.

Adult bullies use emotional tactics, verbal abuse and technology to provide consistent harassment and hurt feelings meant to create fear, powerlessness and helplessness in individuals. These are not out-of-body experiences. Adult bullies are aware of their behavior. Their tactics are detrimental not only to the victim but also to bystanders, who may feel uneasy, be forced to pick sides or end up feeling unsafe.

We need to break the silence on adult bullies. Bullying in not acceptable at any age or size. If you are dealing with an adult bully, follow Jonathan Martin’s example.

* Document incidents and speak out. If this is happening at your job, know that most companies have a policy on workplace behavior. Familiarize yourself with the employee handbook outlining those rules.

* Identify your support network and engage them as a sounding board for assistance.

* Avoid self-blame by focusing on doing your best job at work and not getting distracted by negative behaviors.

* Treat others the way you’d like to be treated and avoid engaging in the same behavior.

Bullying needs to stop. I applaud Jonathan Martin for highlighting his experiences. Perhaps he’s meant to make a difference not just on the field, but off it as well.

Has an adult bully ever harassed you? Post a comment, share what happened and help break the silence.

 

Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H., is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

Randi Zuckerberg Uncomplicates Online Safety for Kids

Written on November 7, 2013 at 9:35 am , by

Written by Randi Zuckerberg

Photo by Delbarr Moradi

No matter where in the world I travel to, the first question I’m always asked after giving a speech or chatting with new friends is some variant of “How much screen time do you let your son have?”

Parents everywhere are struggling to raise children in a connected world. It makes sense—we’re raising the first generation of digital natives, and we’re the first generation of parents to have to worry about these issues. Just as parents for decades have been talking to their kids about stranger danger, looking both ways before crossing the street or not eating too much candy, online safety is now another must-have conversation. Here are my main rules and tips to help guide your child toward a safe, smart and healthy digital life.

Rules and Tips to Remember

1. Your body is your business only. Think before you post revealing pictures.

2. Don’t bully or go along with other people who are bullying.

3. Only add “friends” online if you also know them in real life.

4. Always treat others with respect, the way you would want to be treated.

5. If you’re going to put something in writing, make sure you would be comfortable if it was reprinted in a newspaper.

6. Only say something online if you would also say it to that person’s face in real life.

7. Be careful about personal information about yourself or your family. Only share things with people you trust.

8. Be vigilant against predators, lurkers and bullies.

9. Above all, guard yourself and your dignity, and stay safe.

Even if you aren’t very familiar with the latest technology, make it a priority to ask your child what they’re doing online. Take time once a month or so to sit down and have them walk you through their favorite sites. Ask questions. Friend or follow them on social platforms. Ask other parents what sites their children use. And be sure that you follow these digital rules too: Having an online role model can go a long way toward influencing a child’s behavior. In an age where parents are on social media posting their children’s every milestone, keep in mind that this content can live forever online. That naked baby picture, which could be cute today, may haunt your child down the line.

 

Randi Zuckerberg is the CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media, a media and production company, and editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, a modern lifestyle online community. 

 

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Movies That Help You Talk to Your Kids About Bullying

Written on October 23, 2013 at 11:00 am , by

image from ABC Family’s Cyberbully

Talking to teenagers about stuff like using the Internet responsibly and bullying (or sex, drugs and rock and roll for that matter) can be tricky. I have one boy (17) who clams up when I raise difficult topics. And a girl (14) who tells me—in no uncertain terms—to back off. Both responses are difficult to deal with. Sometimes I just forge ahead and blurt out the information I need to convey despite this wall of resistance. But I prefer to be clever about engaging my teens in conversation. My favorite way is by using a TV show or movie to get things started. When the players being discussed are fictional characters rather than my own teens, it’s much easier to have a calm discussion. So when the folks at Netflix offered me a list of their favorite movies for opening a conversation with kids about bullying for National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, I was intrigued.

Netflix recommended some titles that address bullying head-on to provide some characters around which to hang a conversation, and talk about actions and choices that lead to positive outcomes. The critically acclaimed Bully is a hard-to-watch but powerful documentary about bullying in U.S. schools. In The War, Kevin Costner comes back from Vietnam and helps his son (Elijah Wood) stand up to a group of bullies. Billy Elliot is about a boy in a coal mining family who decides to take up ballet (a classic bullying scenario). Fat Boy Chronicles is the story of a boy who moves to a new school and is bullied. And Cyberbully—my daughter’s pick for opening a dialogue on this topic—concerns a girl who is bullied online. Even movies about cartoonish heroism can give kids role models with the courage to stand up for what’s right. Netflix suggests The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, Justice League Unlimited, Hercules, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Ben 10: Alien Force.

Watching any of these movies with your kids is a start. But this isn’t a conversation you can have once and tick off your to-do list. Bullying—and in particular cyberbullying—is a moving target. The social media sites where bullying can play out change all the time, the tools within those sites for blocking and reporting bullying change pretty often, and bullying itself can shift almost daily. “We call it an ecosystem,” Common Sense Media’s parenting editor Caroline Knorr told me recently. “In it, the bully is not always the same person. One day the bully might be a bystander while someone else takes a bully role. And maybe the original target of the bullying reverses roles with the bully.”

The goal here is to give kids the skills they need to negotiate this complex social environment, both online and off, on their own. And that means they need to understand both the technical tools and the social ones. “It’s important for parents to understand that none of this is simple,” says Knorr. “In fact, it is very complex. Because of this, we advocate that parents not only help kids understand how to use the technical tools but also help kids believe they are stewards of the Internet.” Their actions matter not only to those people in their own immediate circle but also to the social ecosystem of the entire online world.

Once you open this conversation, there are so many things to cover: how to block or report a bully from a social network, empathy, courage, heroism, patience, thinking before you act and much more. “Bullies try to intimidate and isolate their victims,” says Knorr. “So the strongest thing you can do if you see someone being bullied is to befriend that person.” But that—like many things when it comes to standing up for right over wrong—is a choice that requires courage, empathy and an understanding that your own actions matter as much, if not more, than the bully’s. So this conversation, as many of the movies listed here illustrate, is not just about bullies. It’s about what it means to be a good human being. You’re unlikely to get that one solved in one afternoon of movie watching. But a movie is still a good place to start.

Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.

Cyberbullying: Are We (the Parents) to Blame?

Written on October 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm , by

It’s an absolutely heartbreaking story—yet another youth, in this case 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Winter Haven, Florida, commits suicide after being relentlessly bullied online for months by her classmates.

But this time there’s a new twist to the lurid headlines: The local sheriff arrested two girls, ages 14 and 12, charging them with felony aggravated stalking after a message appeared in the Facebook feed of the older girl that read, “Yes Ik I bullied RECECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF” [translation: “I don’t give a (expletive)”]. The girl’s parents said someone had hacked into her FB account, but the sheriff isn’t buying it. In fact, he says he’d put them in jail if he could for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

You may think he’s gone way too far. Or you may feel he’s right on the mark. Either way, the sheriff has turned the spotlight and focused it on parents and their culpability when it comes to cyberbullying. When you stop and think about it, this has been the elephant in the room, the unspoken, taboo topic amid all the tragic teen suicides in the news: To what degree are parents to blame when their children become taunters, tormentors, emotional abusers and worse?

Normally in this space we chat about things moms should discuss with their children. Perhaps this is a topic we should start talking about with each other.

Could Your Child Prevent a Suicide?

Written on October 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm , by

One of the most painful parts of my work is sitting with parents who have lost a child to suicide. As I listen to their stories, I can’t help but think of my own sons. Would my boys ever be so unhappy that they would consider taking their lives? Would they tell me if they were?

I know that kids often don’t tell their parents or others when they are miserable. They hide behind smiles or assurances of “I’m fine.” That’s what Bart Palosz from Greenwich, Connecticut, did. According to CNN.com, a month before he killed himself on August 27, he posted, “I notice if I sound sad I’m normal and if I act happy, cheerful, and ‘normal’ there is a high chance that I will try to poison myself, cut myself, commit suicide, or jump in front of a truck:)”

I also often think of the friends, classmates and teammates who were around the child who took his life. Did they know he was so miserable? Did they know why? Did they do anything to reach out to the child to assure him he wasn’t so alone?

The reasons a person decides to take his or her life are complicated. But one thing I know to be true for all of us: If another person sees us in our deepest, darkest moments of despair and reaches out a helping hand, we often step away from the cliff. It is our social connection to one another that gives us the strength to live another day.

Even if your child never considers suicide, there’s a good chance he will know a peer who has. He may witness the child being targeted by other kids who drive that child to feel isolated, attacked and worthless. Our kids shouldn’t be expected to act as mental health professionals, but they should be able to show empathy and compassion to a person in need. So what do you say to your child beyond, “If you see someone who looks depressed, be kind to him”?

If we’re more specific about the situations our children are likely to encounter, we can give them an easier way to put their good intentions into action. Here’s a suggestion for how to do it.

If you have an older child (eighth grade and above), try to stay away from the word “bullying.” Instead, say something like: “If you see someone—or you get any kind of social networking post where someone—is being relentless humiliated, I expect you to not contribute to it in any way. If it happens in person, don’t pretend you didn’t hear it. Don’t laugh, even if it’s out of nervousness. And if you find yourself doing either of these things, stop yourself and apologize to the target. And at the very least, turn to the person who is tormenting this kid and say something like ‘Lay off.’ If you see it on a social network, not only do I expect you not to forward it, but you will do what you can to stop people from using these pictures against the other person.”

It’s the feeling that no one in their world supports them, will stand by them or will stop the campaign of cruelty that makes kids feel they don’t have the strength to keep their head high another day. Our children can offer comfort and support to people in need. They can make a difference in the moment it may matter the most.

Have you spoken to your child about sticking up for kids who are being targeted? What have you said? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to www.rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question?
Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Author Jay Asher on Bullying

Written on October 28, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Jay Asher, author of the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, on how to respond when someone who’s been bullied reaches out to you.

I speak at high schools and libraries across the country. It can be so inspiring to hear directly from my readers, both teens and adults, about what they liked and got out of my books. It can also be heartbreaking to hear how many of them have been through similar situations, or experienced similar emotions, as the main characters in my novel Thirteen Reasons Why. The male character is trying to understand and deal with a classmate’s suicide. The female character is the one who felt she couldn’t hold on any longer. The majority of the book is her character explaining the things she went through that brought her to the point of wanting her life to end.

Many times after visiting with my readers, I’ve returned to my hotel room and sat on the edge of my bed (without even turning on the TV!) to let everything I’d heard that day sink in. Readers come up to me after my presentations to get autographs, take photos, ask questions or share why they connected with the book. Sometimes it helped them understand a friend better. Sometimes it made them reconsider how they had been treating someone without knowing what else that person may have been dealing with. Too often, they tell me that my story was the first time they felt someone understood them. That’s always such a beautiful thing to hear, because the hope that there are people in the world who will understand is the first thing someone needs to have before they’ll reach out for help.

The thing that saddens me is that I know those readers are surrounded by people who will understand. So why don’t they realize it? It’s often because of the way we talk about bullying and all its accompanying issues. If they approach a parent, teacher or other adult for help or support after something another person has said or done and they’re told “Just ignore it,” or “That’s an unfortunate part of growing up,” or “I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you make it seem,” or “Did you do anything to encourage it?” they’ll feel like no one understands. And sometimes they’ll feel like no one cares. Because the first person they turned to, the person they thought was most likely to understand or care, didn’t understand or care. At least, that’s how it appeared.

Yes, sometimes ignoring it is all that can be done. And bullying can be a horrible part of growing up. And many of us can be melodramatic. Sometimes we do things that even encourage bullying. But every situation is unique. Every person has a different threshold for what they can handle. Most people are also dealing with more than just one incident. If someone opens up about a painful experience and the first thing they hear is a cliché that doesn’t address their very real emotions, then the next time something happens, they’ll be less likely to trust that their thoughts will be understood or appreciated.

Those people they turned to probably did want to help, they just didn’t know how. We’ve become so used to falling back on clichéd responses that they’re the first words to come out of our mouths. They are conversation stoppers for conversations that need to be nurtured. The next time someone tells you that they’ve been bullied, stop what you’re doing. Stop the cliché that raced to the tip of your tongue from coming out of your mouth. And listen. Think about what they’re saying. Consider what else might be going on in their life. Realize that this could be the only time they’re going to reach out to someone.

Listening matters.

So does how we speak.

Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel.

 

Actor Bob Balaban on the Importance of Bully Movie

Written on October 27, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Bob Balaban on the documentary Bully and bullying prevention.

In my new children’s book series, The Creature from the Seventh Grade, protagonist Charlie Drinkwater is mercilessly taunted by his oversize nemesis, Craig Dieterly. Although much of the book is inspired by my own childhood experiences, I am happy to say I was never bullied. Even though as a kid growing up in Chicago I fit the definition of underdog to a T—short, skinny, big-eared, awkward and brainy—I was never bullied. I had the good fortune to attend a tiny private school where I was in the mainstream and the kids on the football team were, ironically, far more likely to be considered outsiders than I was.

Until I saw Lee Hirsch’s deeply affecting documentary Bully last year (now available on Netflix), I was convinced that there were two types of bullying: the time-honored innocuous kind in which stupid overbearing lugs with names like Moose and Biff made a harmless nuisance of themselves as they tried to assert their authority over the weaker, smarter members of the class, and the much rarer, more destructive kind, in which sadistic pain-loving monsters destroyed the childhoods, and occasionally the very lives, of their anointed victims.

Bully obliterates the line between the two and makes it perfectly clear that zero tolerance is the only way to go. It tracks the cases of five abused kids, including two who committed suicide. Bullying is bad. It is never justified. And it isn’t a matter of “kids will be kids.” Its effects range from damaging to fatal. And it’s on the increase. See the movie. Show it to your teenage kids and their teachers. Tell your friends. You’ll be moved. You’ll be shocked. You won’t forget it.

Bullying often goes unreported and frequently survives the scrutiny of even the most well-meaning parents, teachers and guidance counselors. It is impossible to legislate against. It is considered by many to be a bogus issue invented by wimpy parents and their cry-baby offspring. Much like sexual harassment, it thrives on ignorance and apathy, and the commonly held notion that it’s a natural part of life and its victims are as much to blame for their horrific treatment as the perpetrators themselves. Throughout the documentary well-meaning parents advise their bullied children to “toughen up.” They tell them that they are encouraging the situation by not fighting back, that they have a valuable life lesson to learn by standing up for themselves.

The parents of one particularly abused child, cruelly nicknamed “Fish Face,” are brought to tears when finally shown documentary footage of their child being brutally assaulted on the school bus. They had no idea how serious his problem was. He had complained frequently, but he stopped reporting the incidents after his guidance counselor called him and his parents in to her office. She explained that she had ridden the bus specifically to look for signs of bullying and reported that the other students were polite and well-behaved, and that the victim was obviously confused. Or lying. Kids everywhere are facing the same reluctance on the part of their teachers and parents to take the problem seriously. And yet it is of epidemic proportions.

Bullies don’t exist in a vacuum. They echo the attitudes and prejudices of their parents, friends and teachers. The kids who are witness to their cruel behavior are generally too afraid or too complacent to say anything about it. Their silence is tacit approval and encourages bullies to keep on bullying. But like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” one lone protesting voice in the crowd really can stop a bully in his or her tracks.

We’ve got to encourage our kids to be that voice, to speak up if they’re witnesses to an incident. We must let them know that when we don’t say something, we become de facto bullies. That, as well as making our school and elected officials and public opinion makers aware of the seriousness and the urgency of the problem, are our best and only lines of defense.

Here is the trailer for Bully. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it. If it moves you, watch it on Netflix, you’ll be glad you did. It’s far more eloquent than I could ever be.

Bob Balaban is an actor/producer/director/writer who has appeared in over a hundred movies, including the recent Moonrise Kingdom. He produced and co-starred in the Academy Award–winning movie Gosford Park, directed the award-winning off-Broadway play The Exonerated and is currently writing the Creature from the Seventh Grade series for Viking Children’s Books.

Is My Daughter Sexcasting?

Written on October 25, 2012 at 12:21 am , by

If you have followed some of the recent stories of cyberbullying that led to horrific consequences, you might be feeling as if your kids are living in a world you don’t understand and can’t control. Kids are taking their clothes off for strangers online, sending naked photos and videos of each other to huge groups, and engaging in other frightening online activities that sound unappealing, out of character and straight-up dangerous.

Why would they do this?

“If you think about it, sending video is pretty natural for this generation,” Lisa Shaw, senior editor of ParentingTodaysKids.com and senior director of Online Child Safety and Protection at SpectorSoft told me. My own kids grab video of our pets’ cute antics, of each other at parties, of things they want to remember, of anything they find amusing to share with friends. They grew up with cheap video cameras everywhere and access to video of everything from lessons in fixing a broken computer to how-tos on doing fabulous makeup to hilarious cat videos. When they start exploring more adult topics, video is probably as natural to them as it is cringe-worthy to my generation. And that’s why, says Shaw, an epidemic known as sexcasting is sweeping the tween and teenage groups. Sexcasting is the creation, sending and receiving of sexually suggestive or explicit videos across the Internet.

My daughter has access to video cameras, Internet, a smartphone, and a lively and engaged social network of friends. Does that mean she is in the other room sexcasting?

It certainly doesn’t seem like her style. But Shaw points out that a kid can have one personality at home, another at school and still another online. A 2011 AP-MTV Digital Abuse Study found that 15% of teens and young adults surveyed have sent naked photos or videos of themselves and 21% have received naked pictures or videos of others.

Call me deluded, but I still don’t think she is doing this. And here’s why: I explained the dangers of sending photos of any kind, but especially sexy or nude ones, to her before I let her have access to a computer with a webcam or a phone with a camera. And I do frequent “drive-bys” where I insist on seeing what’s on the screen right now. And I bring the many dangers up a lot—too much, according to my kids. I explained that there can be legal repercussions because trading naked photos of a minor online is illegal and kids have been prosecuted under pornography laws for sending photos to friends. I also explained that once a photo is on the Internet, you can’t get it back or control where it goes. Because of this, I often ask her to imagine how she would feel if her grandmother saw the photo she is thinking about posting. If she doesn’t want Nana to see it, she shouldn’t share it with anyone. And every time the devastating repercussions of sexting, bullying or anything else in this realm makes the news, we talk about it.

Also, as soon as I got off the phone with Shaw, I asked my daughter if she knew what sexcasting was and if she had ever done it. “That is disgusting!” she insisted. “I would never do that!” And I believe her. But, since we were already discussing it, I took the opportunity to share a fact Shaw had told me that I felt would create even more disincentive, just in case her peers—or anyone—ever pressured her to do something she would never do on her own. “That’s good,” I said. “Because 88% of the sexy photos that teens post get reposted to parasite porn websites. So even if you think you are only sending a photo or video to a friend, there is a very good chance that some gross pervert—or a lot of them—will see it too.”

This wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have with my daughter. I’d much rather keep the conversation to school, new TV shows and how awesome her hair looks. But I don’t send her out into the real world without warning her about the dangers and giving her a guidebook on what to do and not to do to stay safe. And I don’t send her out on the Internet unprepared either.

“Talk to your kids about the dangers,” agrees Shaw. “No matter how uncomfortable the conversation makes you—or them.” If it’s easier to use the news as a starting point for a conversation like this, there is, unfortunately, plenty of fodder there these days.

If you see worrisome signs, suspect that your teen is engaged in risky behavior, or can’t be there to supervise their online adventures, you could install one of SpectorSoft’s computer or mobile tools (here is a coupon code for 25% off SpectorSoft products: FamilyCircle25) that watch everything they do online. This is a bit like installing security cameras on their online life.

Personally, though, I am a strong believer in taking the computer or phone away if I suspect it’s being used irresponsibly (even if that’s just because it’s being used too much). I provide it. I can take it back. And I do.

Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle, and is the author of “How to Be a Geek Goddess.” You can find her at GeekGirlfriends.com, as well as here on Momster.com. Follow her on Twitter, @xtinatynanwood.

 

Parenting Q&A: “My Daughter Looks Too Sexy in Facebook Photos!”

Written on October 16, 2012 at 10:58 am , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. My sweet 14-year-old looks too sexy in her Facebook photo. How can I get her to take it down?

A. I’m going to assume it’s just slightly too sexy and not a provocative pic where it looks like she’s topless in front of a stripper bar. Start by presenting information to your daughter from a third party, like a movie or book. I’d recommend watching the documentary Miss Representation with her. (You could even host a screening party with other parents and girls so you can discuss it as a group afterward.) You want your daughter to understand the pressures girls face to present themselves in highly sexual ways and what the consequences are for her self-esteem. A few days after the movie, ask her to think about her FB profile picture and putting another in its place. Yes, you can tell her that she must change it or she doesn’t get Facebook, but if you only do that, then you’re missing the larger point: having your daughter develop a sense of how she wants to appear to the world.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

The Sex Talk and Your Teen: What’s Porn Got To Do With It?

Written on October 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman offers advice on having “the sex talk” with kids for Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month.

Pornography: It’s the reason kids are uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex.

That’s what immediately came to mind when I read the Planned Parenthood and Family Circle survey finding that while half of all parents are comfortable having the sex talk with their kids, only 18% of teens said they feel very comfortable having the sex talk with their parents.

I thought this because I regularly talk to tweens and teens. I know how common it is for them to have questions about sex, so they type “kissing” into YouTube and a few seconds later they’ve clicked onto a porn site. I know that boys regularly show each other favorite porn sites—like their dads did with Playboys and Penthouses a generation ago.

According to Family Safe Media, the average age at which children are first exposed to pornography is 11—earlier than most parents think they need to talk to their kids about sexual decision making. Ninety percent of kids between 8 and 16 have seen pornography, usually while doing their homework.

Before you think, “Where are the parents?” or “Why don’t those parents have filtering devices on their computers?” realize that both questions are irrelevant. Kids have regular access to devices that allow them to research and share topics they’re curious about. And sex has always been and always will be a topic kids are curious about.

If you’re a parent and don’t know any of this, you’re going to approach the sex conversation from an entirely different context than your child. Imagine: You get over your discomfort and sit down with your child to impart your deeply held values about healthy sexual decisions—without keeping in mind that there’s a good possibility they’ve seen graphic, up-close sexual intercourse and oral sex.

Of course kids don’t want to tell us they’ve seen these images. What are they supposed to say? If they admit what they’ve seen, you’re probably going to respond by asking in a very intense, accusatory tone, “Who showed you those? Where were you? What exactly did you see?” They don’t want to have that conversation with you. Plus, they think if they tell you, you’ll react by taking away their phones or computers.

You can have all the filters on your computer you want, block the TV and take away their phones—it won’t matter. You can’t take away every portal to the Internet in your child’s life.

This is what I say: ”I know that if you want to see those pictures, you’re going to figure out how to do it. I could take away every computer in the house and every phone and it wouldn’t make a difference. Here’s why I don’t want you to watch porn. It brings you into a really complicated world where you’re being exposed to really messed-up images and messages about how men and women interact sexually. It’s also all fake. It’s a performance where women are supposed to look a certain way and always like whatever the guy wants to do and the guy never cares about the woman he’s with. I think you deserve to have more accurate information than what you’d see there. But you do have the right to have information about sex in a way that’s accurate and appropriate for you. If you have questions about sex, I want you to ask me or another adult who we both think is a good person to answer your questions.”

As a mom, it upsets me that I have to raise my children in a world where pornography is readily accessible to them. As a teacher, it upsets me that porn is giving our girls and boys unrealistic and often very unhealthy messages about sexuality that will influence them to some degree. But as upsetting as it is, we have to face what our world is like and respond in an informed way. If we don’t, we can’t be relevant in our children’s lives when they need our guidance the most.

Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Q&A: “I’m a 12-Year-Old Girl Who Doesn’t Like Her New School”

Written on October 9, 2012 at 10:50 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. I’m a 12-year-old girl who doesn’t like her new school. People aren’t open to helping me, there are so few kids to make friends with and I’m getting frustrated. Is there a way to make things better?

A. That’s terrible! You’d hope everyone would realize how hard it is for you as a new kid. It’s time to take matters into your own hands. First, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you can make one or two friends by spring break, I’d consider that a win. It’s possible the kids in your class have grown up together and that can be really intimidating, but the work you do as a team will give you opportunities to strengthen bonds. Are there any group projects coming up? Things you’re interested in at school that other kids are into as well? If so, invite a group over to your house to work or hang together. Friendships will develop from there.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Important New Book “Bully: An Action Plan”

Written on October 4, 2012 at 10:07 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

A year ago AC360’s town hall special Bullying: It Stops Here premiered. Several experts (myself included) and wonderful, brave children participated that day, and we showed clips of Bully, an extraordinary documentary profiling five young people who had been bullied. Working on that special and supporting the movie have been heartfelt projects for me, and I’ve watched with real pride how both have done an outstanding job of bringing attention to this problem.

I remember when I first saw the movie. I was so surprised, saddened and in some ways relieved that Lee Hirsch had captured on film what I unfortunately see too often: desperate kids, well-meaning adults who don’t know what to do, and parents who are torn between frustration—sometimes at their own children for being silent targets—and helpless fury at school administrators who do nothing, at best.

It’s a painful movie with no happy ending. There are no talking heads offering helpful strategies. For these understandable reasons, many people who saw the movie and would have liked to show it to their kids wanted more resources to pick up where the movie leaves off. That need has been answered: The creators of Bully recently published Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis.

The book takes over where the movie ends. Interwoven with the stories of the children in the movie is advice from experts on how to recognize when your child is being bullied and what we can say as parents and educators. Particularly moving to me are the words of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “Bully probably has been something of a reality check for many classroom teachers. Some teachers who see the film find themselves wondering if they’ve missed bullying in their classrooms and hallways: Have kids suffered because they didn’t notice? Is this behavior happening in their school? The fact that those questions are being asked and that educators are having ongoing conversations about the answers is another example of how the power of this documentary extends far beyond the individual stories it tells.”

In addition, experts such as Dr. Robyn Silverman, Peter Sharas and Michele Borba (as well as yours truly) offer commonsense ways for parents and educators to reach out to kids who are targets, bystanders and aggressors.

Our efforts are making a difference. Just watch this local news anchor passionately articulate her experience of being bullied by a viewer for being overweight. She’s a great example of how each one of us can transform a painful personal experience into a powerful opportunity for leadership. She and others like her are the kind of adults kids need to see more of.

Read our other posts about “Bully.”

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.