Teenagers, Toxic Friendships and Exclusion via Social Media.

I am a parent of two teenagers. My son is 18 and my daughter is 16. Over the last 5 years we've experienced a number of complex social situations with both our children ranging from low levels of bullying via social media (e.g exclusions) to more serious manipulation of digital assets aimed to create negative impression and damage reputations.

As a family, we often found ourselves at a loss of what to do, how to even read the intent of some of these situations.
We eventually came to realize that if it makes your child feel bad, it isn't right and needs to be addressed.

This was a whole other challenge. What to do? Messages disappear in a flash, groups merge and dissolve, but your child is on edge and in tears.

Our motto became "make private public". Over the last 2 years we encouraged our children to address all of these situations via a peer to peer and face to face approach. Occasionally, we as adults had to step in. Again, peer to peer (school, parents) and face to face.

As a result:

  1. Our children have developed a self awareness of what makes them feel "bad" or "uneasy". They can now recognize the signs of a toxic relationship and have the strength to step away without feeling like a victim.

  2. Taking the "make private public" approach makes many of the would-be online bullies think twice about having a face to face conversation with my very direct children.

  3. My children have a greater appreciation of genuine friendships.

  4. We have developed a greater need to share our experiences as a family.