We all know the stereotype of the teen with his eyes glued to the screen, or the group of girls Snapchatting every moment. But they're more than just stereotypes. Nearly three-quarters of all teenagers have smartphones, and 92 percent of teenagers in general report going online daily in some way, according to a study conducted by the PEW Research Center in 2015. About 24 percent say they're online "almost constantly."
But there's a downside to all that activity: cyberbullying.
"There is no escape for kids when they are on their phones all the time," says Andrea DiFillippo, a nationally recognized parenting expert and licensed clinical social worker. The Internet is a netherworld of communication that children can access without their parents knowing a thing, and when hurtful comments are made, children are unlikely to share.
"The issue is big enough to generate conversation," explains DiFillipo, which is why she will be hosting a Facebook Live session today at 5:30 p.m. for Denver residents on behalf of the new smartphone application Social Judo.
"Parents don't want to spy on their kids," explains DiFillippo, who serves as "Chief of Counseling and Chief Parent Expert" for Social Judo. Instead, the app allows parents to set alerts that will be triggered whenever certain buzzwords or phrases regarding suicide, profanity, sexting, nudity or other such content are sent or received on a phone.
Instead of invading a kid's privacy, DiFillippo sees the app as an opportunity for what she calls a "parenting moment."
By receiving an alert, parents will have time to think and plan how they want to address the issue with their child, checking themselves emotionally to ensure they have a "calm, caring and constructive" talk, DiFillippo says. The app even has a mechanism to prevent sexting, using an algorithm that will actually destroy nude photographs.
Colorado is one of many states in recent years to enact cyberbullying legislation as high-profile cases, like the suicide of Tyler Clementi and the trial of Michelle Carter, have gained nationwide media coverage. In 2015, a law classifying cyberbullying as a misdemeanor went into effect in Colorado after Kiana Arellano, a Highlands Ranch teen, nearly committed suicide after being cyberbullied.
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During the Facebook Live session, DiFillippo plans to address cases of cyberbullying in Denver, provide tools for parents to discern signs and symptoms of cyberbullying (both victims and offenders), and will take questions before and during the session via Social Judo's Facebook page.
DiFillippo plans to host twenty Facebook Live events across the country in as many weeks. "I want to see, in the next ten years, a dramatic decrease in major headlines regarding cyberbullying like those we have seen recently," emphasizes DiFillippo. For her, a tool like Social Judo is one of the keys to this outcome.
Facebook Live questions can be sent ahead to firstname.lastname@example.org or taken during the session.