Instant messenger services allow users to have real-time online “conversations” with other users. It can be a great way for kids to communicate with friends, but when it’s abused, that communication can be hurtful. Here’s how one family handled that situation.
Avery: “I was using Instant Messenger (IM) a lot to talk with my friends, but then they started to say mean things to me online. They would curse; they’d say, ‘I hate you.’ At first I thought they were teasing, but soon it started to bother me.”
Richard: “School friends of Avery’s were using IM to bully her and each other. They were attempting to disrupt friendships. I saw it was upsetting Avery. I didn’t want to be draconian about imposing rules, so my wife and I talked with Avery about how she might handle the situation. We thought the simplest solution would be for her to avoid going online. But what’s simple for an adult isn’t so simple for an 11-year-old. Avery still goes online, but her patterns of use are different, and she’s on less frequently. She’s discovered a way to use IM while avoiding the girls who were bashing her.”
Avery: “I decided not to go online as often. Now I only log on when I know those girls aren’t online. And if one of them does come on, I sign off, and sign back in a little later. I also talked to one of my friends about it, and she admitted to being mean. I told her, ‘Please don’t do it anymore.’ She apologized and hasn’t said anything mean since. But I still don’t trust her.”
Richard: “There’s a community that gets established through IM. It can be a wonderful form of communication when used properly. I’m happy as long as Avery has figured out a way to avoid being hurt, and I’m proud that she figured it out on her own. I’m equally pleased that she won’t engage in this kind of behavior.”
Avery: “I wouldn’t, because I know how it feels. Now I’m more selective about whom I’m chatting with. It works. I feel more comfortable now going online.”
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