In the final part of our series, "Social Media, Friend or Foe?" we take a look at what parents should know and can do about the issues of cyber bullying and sexting. First, they should have an ongoing conversation with their teens about their use of social media before a problem arises.
Larry Boburka, a guidance counselor at Westwood High School and a father of three teenagers, has clear advice for parents.
"Check e-mails and check text messages. Certainly talk to your kids about what they're doing online," said Boburka. "I know this is really uncomfortable sometimes for parents to think about."
The reality is 39 percent of teens have sexted, and 50 percent of teens have been victims of or engaged in cyber bullying. Boburka suggested families have a ground rule that a cell phone is community property in the home.
"The phones should not be in their bedroom," he said. "Some kids say they use it for an alarm clock, but that's a simple remedy."
Only one in ten teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim.
"It's important if you suspect your child is being bullied to ask your child and be very clear on that," Boburka said.
If you think your child has been involved in sexting, have the conversation in a private setting.
"Being very understanding and very emotionally available to your child," Boburka explained.
Detective Sergeant Michael Kohler of the Marquette Police Department is also the parent of a high school student. He recommended families have regular discussions about social media.
"By having normal conversations with your child and really knowing where they're at socially and technologically is better than having an interrogation," said Kohler. "These small conversations can yield a lot more of where your child's at socially."
Parents also need to recognize that their child may be the bully.
"It's important to have those conversations as well," Kohler said.
Fewer than one in five cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement. Kohler said authorities should be contacted if a situation has gotten out of control and impacting the everyday life of a teen or family.
"If you're really talking about someone's health or well-being being at stake," he said.
The Marquette Police Department also has a presence at Marquette Senior High School. Between authorities and parents, teens need to know that adults are looking out for their well-being now and into the future.
"This is something that's for the safety and protection of your child," Boburka said.
For more cyber bullying tips and statistics, visit: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html
For more information on teens and sexting, visit: http://www.guardchild.com/teenage-sexting-statistics/