It’s important to understand that the black children in our communities simply face different challenges than their white peers—on both a day-to-day (e.g. dealing with stereotypes) and institutional (e.g. the school-to-prison pipeline) level.
These challenges extend to the digital sphere, where our black children are subjected to different, more racially-charged forms of cyber risks and cyberbullying.
According to StopBullying.gov, at 25%, black children are the most likely to be bullied compared to their white, Asian, Hispanic, and peers of other descent.
It’s very probable—especially in times of racial tension and more media coverage of race issues—that black children will be exposed to more racial slurs, racist images, and other harmful depictions of the black community when browsing the internet and social media. This may be by way of posts in their network, news coverage, and/or people directly messaging them.
It’s important to teach these children how to talk about harmful posts they see with parents, advisors, or other trusted adults, and for their guardians to ensure the correct filters are configured on their child’s profiles (making profiles private, not allowing strangers to send direct messages, etc.) so that the child isn’t inundated with these racist posts.
When this type of bullying—either cyber or in-person—occurs at school, it is important that both teachers and administrators pay attention. That’s because according to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR):
Harassment creates a hostile environment when the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school. When such harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability, it violates the civil rights laws that OCR enforces.
The best approach is to have these difficult discussions with children before they are exposed to racism and racist posts, but given the proliferation of the internet today, it’s very likely your child has already seen some harmful, hateful things. That’s why it’s important to talk to them as soon as possible to ensure they have the proper context and allow them a safe space to tell you how they’re feeling.