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Empowering teens to conquer social media’s negative side

Parent

Teen

Athlete

Bullying

Tech Use

Body Positivity

Relationships

Resilience

July 14, 2023

We’ve all seen those mean-spirited comments on social media posts, right? While we wish internet trolls didn’t exist or that they didn’t affect how any of us feel, these unhelpful, negative words can actually have a huge impact on our teens' emotional well-being. It's time to demystify the world of these digital troublemakers.

So, what exactly is an internet troll? This is someone who makes intentionally cruel, rude, or upsetting statements online to elicit strong emotional responses in another person. Think of them as bacteria lurking in the depths of social media, just waiting to spread negativity and cause harm. Their goal is to elicit big reactions, cause distress, and make their victims feel miserable. 

The truth about trolls is that they typically spend countless hours trying to make people mad, and engaging will only serve to feed them. While it can be hard to do, try remembering that their behavior is more about their own deficits and insecurities than the actual person they are lashing out at. 

While we can’t totally eliminate online bullies, we can tap into tools to take away their power and build immunity against their harmful bites. Here's how:

Identify and then ignore the pesky monsters: Knowledge is power when battling trolls. Teach your teens to watch out for negative comments, repeated patterns of bad behavior, and an overall lack of positivity. If something online makes them feel bad, it's likely an internet troll trying to infect them with their unhelpful negativity. By ignoring them, your teen is likely to drive the troll away, searching for someone more susceptible to their tricks.

Build resilience: Once your teen can spot a troll, it's time to build resilience (here’s an article on how to do just that!). Remind them that trolls prey on vulnerable people, aiming to shatter their self-esteem. But when your teen embraces their self-worth and seeks validation from within, trolls have a harder time getting under their skin.

Report and block ALL trolls: Teach your teens to use the reporting and blocking features on all social platforms. By doing so, they not only protect themselves but also help others. Better yet, stay involved in your teen's social media activities, turning off comments when possible. If that's not an option, take a moment to review the comments together and block them as needed. Prevention is the best defense!

Positivity is paramount, so here is a simple tool your teens can use to remind them to think before they POST:

P - Pause and reflect: Encourage them to hit the pause button before posting, sharing, or commenting on social media. Remind them to consider the potential impact of their words.

O - Own your words: Teach your teens to take responsibility for their online words and actions. Remind them that what they say or post can have long-term effects on others. Encourage kindness and empathy in their online interactions.

S - Spread positivity: Emphasize the importance of spreading positivity. Encourage your teens to think about how their posts could affect others. Challenge them to inspire, support, and uplift with their online presence.

T - Think long-term: Help your teens understand the long-term consequences of their online footprint. Remind them that college applications and future employment opportunities may be influenced by their digital presence. Encourage them to ask themselves if they want to be known as someone who spreads positivity and makes a positive impact.

By following these steps and using the "POST" technique, we can empower our teens to navigate social media with mindfulness and kindness. Together, we’re creating a digital world where trolls have no power and positivity wins. Your friends at Bend will be here to support you along the way.