Tribune Print Share Text

Talking to grandkids about cyberbullying

Created date

June 21st, 2011

When I heard about the Rutger s student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge because his roommate secretly taped him with another man and then broadcast it live over the Internet, I was very upset. Part of my reaction stemmed from the fact that I can see the bridge outside my window and so I feel a special connection to it; but, of course, I was mostly appalled at how anyone could do something so mean and callous to someone they spent so much time with. The problem is that young people today are so connected that it is part of their everyday life and so they have no respect for the potential dangers of cyberbullying or what a picture posted on a social networking website like Facebook can do to ruin your reputation years later. It s like that loose step in your house that you always manage to step on without incident, until the day you end up falling down a flight of stairs.

Unfamiliar territory

That people in our generation aren t nearly as computer savvy as our grandchildren is a problem when it comes to offering advice to them. So while we re quite ready to give opinions on matters on familiar ground, how do you get your grandkids to heed your advice about the dangers of cyberspace when you may never have been there yourself? I suggest using your ignorance as an instructional tool. Ask questions, but ask them in a way that will open up the opportunity to raise the issue of being more careful. Before you ask about what Facebook is, find out what dangers the Internet can pose and then ask about them as if your question came out of the blue. If a grandchild starts out thinking, How cute; Grandma wants to know about Facebook, and then you ask some pointed questions, you ll make quite an impression, both with regard to how savvy you really are and to how serious these dangers must be if even Grandma could figure them out.

Comments