As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Chapel Hill Public Library is hosting a teaching session where parents and teens can learn more about how to prevent and deal with cyber-bullying.
“Those tools that parents have to start at a very young age, raising kids that have somewhat of a moral compass, are the same tools that you want to use, and will help them explore the cyber world in a safe way.”
That’s Education and Finance Coordinator Alexis Kralic of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.
She, along with Rape Prevention Education Coordinator Rachel Valentine will conduct a session called “Proud of What You Post: Internet Safety and Cyber-Bullying” on Tuesday, at The Chapel Hill Public Library.
Kralic and Valentine both coordinate “Safe Touch” educational programs at Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. The “Safe Touch” program teaches kids how to protect themselves from predators.
Tuesday’s session at the Chapel Hill Public Library is billed as “family-friendly,” and Kralic says that presenters will not talk too much about issues of sexual abuse.
However, there may be some subject matter considered inappropriate for younger kids. Kralic asks that parents only bring kids above elementary school level.
And she says that cyber-bullying can lead to consequences related to sexual violence.
“We consider it a risk factor for sexual violence perpetration,” she says. “Because a lot of what’s happening on the internet is ‘slut shaming,’ homophobic bullying, and saying mean things while hiding behind your screen,” she says. “And that can lead to not respecting someone, and not respecting someone’s physical boundaries.”
Kralic says that her visits to schools all over Orange County have opened her eyes to how early cyber-bullying can begin. Counselors tell her that even kids as young as fourth-graders who aren’t typically on social media, are subjected to it through texting, Instagram, and even gaming sites.
She says that setting boundaries and exploring privacy and security settings are important for parents to do.
But it’s more important for parents to develop some media literacy, although it’ll always be impossible to keep up with kids on that score.
The most important thing of all, she says, is for parents to talk with their kids about internet issues, and maybe, even, to develop some trust.
“Proper communication with your kids about what they’re doing, why they’re using the internet, can give you a much better insight into what they’re doing than blocking,” she says.
According to Kralic, the main message parents need to get across to their kids is: Think before you post.
“Proud of What You Post: Internet Safety and Cyber-Bullying” will be held at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Tuesday, April 22, from 4-to-5:30 p.m.
Parents and kids above elementary-school-level are invited to the free event.