Talking to Your Kids About Bad Behavior Online

Talking to Our Kids About Bad Behavior OnlineWhen talking to our kids about bad behavior online, it’s easy to focus on issues like sexting and pornography. However, much of our communication takes place digitally. So it’s important we teach our kids how to communicate with others online. It’s easy to focus on issues that scare us as parents and miss discussing behaviors which are rude when communicating online with others.

Here are 8 Bad Behaviors Online to Discuss with Your Kids

#1 Ghosting

Ghosting is when a friend suddenly cuts you off online and stops responding to your messages. Oftentimes kids feel it’s easier to simply drop someone cold turkey than work through a disagreement. Ghosting is like walking away from someone in the middle of a conversation. It’s rude in person. And it’s bad behavior online as well.

Encourage Your Child

If your child is ghosted by a friend or family member, encourage them to approach the person face to face. Sometimes a text doesn’t translate the way we are hoping and we just need to clear up a miscommunication. Sometimes ghosting happens because the other person just doesn’t want to be friends. Keep in mind that when ghosting happens, there is usually no closure. It’s a quick and dramatic end to a relationship. Help your child as they process through the loss.


#2 Rumors

Rumors have been around since the dawn of time, so most parents can relate to this problem. In the digital space, rumors spread more quickly and to a larger audience. So, when rumors are spread online, their impact can feel crushing to the victim.

Encourage Your Child

Teach your child when a rumor needs to be reported, when a rumor needs a response, and when a rumor doesn’t deserve a response. A rumor that contains a threat of violence or harm to self or others needs to be reported. A response is an easy way to stop a rumor that’s outrageous or blatantly false. Some rumors just don’t deserve a response.


#3 Exclusion

Social media now gives us a way to see what everyone is doing. The downside of it is our kids now often see when they are excluded from events by friends. Oftentimes this isn’t on purpose. But sometimes, these exclusions are intentional pokes.

Encourage Your Child

When your child is feeling deep hurt because they are being shunned by others, encourage them to talk to the person face to face. This will give your child the chance to explain their feelings to the friend who has hurt them. Oftentimes exclusion isn’t intentional. And, if your child realizes they were intentionally excluded, this gives them the information they need to know how to proceed with the relationship. Explain to your child it’s perfectly fine and healthy to stop following or block those who aren’t true friends.


#4 Sharing Embarrassing Photos and Posts

A joke among friends is funny. But that joke that’s between friends can be really embarrassing when shared widely on the internet. This can be especially true for photos. It’s not kind to post a photo of a friend that’s unflattering and say it’s merely a joke.

Encourage Your Child

Be sure to talk to your child about the importance of respecting and protecting their friends. This means they ask permission before posting photos. And if they have a question about posting a thought that includes others, this means they most likely need to gut check it with the other person BEFORE posting. If an embarrassing post or photo of your child is posted, encourage them to talk to their friend and ask them to remove or edit it.


#5 Griefing

Griefing is a term we use in online gaming. It means to purposefully kill your character, steal your loot, or harass you online.

Encourage Your Child

Make sure your child knows how to block and report others when playing a game before they begin playing online. Make sure they understand how to play that game and how to chat appropriately. Arguing through chat rarely solves issues. Encourage your kids to play online where the servers are whitelisted and moderated.


#6 Subtweeting

Subtweeting is the skillful art of posting something mean or unkind about a person without calling them out. The poster gives just enough information so others can figure out who is the intended recipient of the post. This type of post first began on Twitter, but it’s now commonly used on almost all social media platforms.

Encourage Your Child

If your child is on the receiving end of a subtweet, there are a couple ways to handle it. They can ignore it altogether. This works well if they don’t have a solid relationship with the poster. If the subtweet comes from a friend, approach the person face to face. Again, many rude behaviors we see online come down to poor communication. Often the poster feels they can get away with behavior online that they wouldn’t try in a face-to-face interaction.


#7 Hate Speech

Hate speech is when one person makes prejudiced statements about a group. It’s most often directed at a group based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. Hate speech doesn’t have a legal definition. And, most hate speech is protected under the First Amendment. But it is incredibly rude and hurtful. The fact that hate speech can spread quickly online makes this a topic every parent should discuss with their child.

Encourage Your Child

Keep open discussions with your child about the types of things they see posted online. If your child comes across hate speech that targets them, don’t brush it off. Instead dig deep and ask your child how this type of speech makes them feel. If your child knows the person who posted hate speech, talk to them about the appropriate response. It’s sometimes okay to post a thoughtful, well-crafted response. But more often it’s best to avoid the “mud pit.” There may be times when you need to reach out to other parents or your child’s school administration team, especially if hate speech is causing deep hurt and division among your child’s peers.


#8 Fake Accounts

We hear talk about fake accounts online often; the concept isn’t new to our kids. Don’t overlook discussing creating and using fake accounts to hurt another person with your child. Fake accounts are usually created to hurt a person or stir up controversy. It’s difficult to trace who created the account. Depending on the platform, reporting and getting a fake account shut down can be hard. And, it’s common to see fake accounts reemerge under a new profile.

Encourage Your Child

Teach your child how to block and report fake accounts. Doing so will give them valuable digital media skills. Kids will feel empowered when they actively fight against fake accounts. Encourage them to reach out to their friends and share fake accounts they see. Doing so not only helps others, it makes it more difficult for the person creating the fake account to set up other accounts.

Our kids are growing up in a digital world. They are communicating more and more in that digital space. Don’t overlook talking to them about what bad behavior online looks like. And, walk with them through how to effectively respond if they are ever faced with behavior online that’s rude.

Have you had to address bad behavior online with your kids? Share your tips and insight with us!

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  1. Amy Sloan on November 12, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you for these helpful tips and reminders!

    • Leah Nieman on November 12, 2019 at 10:42 pm

      Absolutely! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Sydney on January 9, 2020 at 12:42 am

    Thank you for this post!! Social media can become a huge problem!

    • Leah Nieman on January 9, 2020 at 2:03 am

      I’m so glad you found it helpful. It can be for sure if we don’t offer our kids some guidance. Thanks so much for dropping by:-)

  3. Ala on January 9, 2020 at 10:27 am

    These tips are absolutely necesary in our online world. Will take a note, to begin teaching them our kids

  4. Kelly| Citytoast2southerntea on January 9, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    I have these same conversations with my 12 year old whom jus got a phone.

    • Leah Nieman on January 9, 2020 at 5:23 pm

      That’s awesome! Thanks for stopping by to visit and share.

  5. Maria Yakimchuk on January 9, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    These are such great tips. The online world has brought interactions to a whole other level that most of us are not as familiar with. It’s very different than in person interactions because people feel emboldened by the anonymity and safety of the screen.

  6. Marysa on January 10, 2020 at 3:14 am

    This is such an important topic. Times have changed and kids really need to be informed about this stuff.

  7. Flossie McCowald on January 10, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    This post is brilliant! I especially love the practical, specific “encourage your child” tips you’ve included at the end of each section. My girls are only 10 and 8, and we’ve taken the “Wait Until 8th” pledge as a family, so we haven’t had to navigate many of these realms yet – BUT – I know the time will come. And while we’ve had limited instances to discuss some of these topics with them (we have to review and sign a digital safety pledge each year as part of their online Girl Scout Cookie selling platforms, which I as the parent manage because they’re under 13, and they’ve already had some challenges discussing homework assignments online with friends in the school-run social media platform on their school-issued iPads), many of them are things I hadn’t even thought about until now. THANK YOU for this informative and well-written post – pinned and sharing to my FB page as well!

    • Leah Nieman on January 10, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      Yes! I often hear parents sharing that they are having to discuss these issues even before their kids get their first social media account because they are using various online platforms for school related work. Thanks so much for your encouraging thoughts and feedback. And, I definitely appreciate the shares.

  8. Sarah on January 10, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    This is so important its easy for anyone to say something online, behind a screen, they never would in person.

  9. Cyndi Buchanan on January 10, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    I have a 14 year old and we have had to deal with some of these issues. Kids can be so cruel online

  10. Sonia Seivwright on January 10, 2020 at 11:41 pm

    My mum needs to see this for my little sister. she’s only 10 but constantly on social media. Thanks for sharing

  11. Rikki Ridgeway on January 11, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    My daughter isn’t old enough for this, but my husband and I are trying to raise a kind and polite young woman. So I’m bookmarking this post for the future when she is a bit older.

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