My oldest daughter is now in middle school.

That is awesome and also a little scary. The reason it’s scary is that we’ve started to enter the waters of social media. I thought I’d have a little more time before the waves got so choppy and confusing, but I was wrong.

Recently, my daughter told me that people at her school had created “couple accounts” on Instagram. The owners of the accounts find photos that other students have posted. Then they put the photos together, showing one guy and one girl. The caption asks, “Would these two make a good couple?”

As you can imagine, the comments become a shark tank within seconds. Students end up saying things like, “No, she’s way too ugly for him” or “No, he’s not cool enough for her.”

I guess I thought bullying would be more straight forward. In my head, I imagined a Goliath-sized 7th grader taking my kid’s lunch money on the playground. The digital world plays by different rules, though. The bullying can happen in more directions than you’re anticipating. So how do you stay ahead of it?

A simple way to expose that your kid is being bullied is just to ask them. I ask my kids all the time, “Have you bumped into any jerks lately?” I know I can’t wait for them to be brave enough to tell me someone bothered them on their own. I can’t wait around for them to find their voice or for it to be bad enough for me to notice.

It’s my job as a parent to ask the questions. It’s my job to invest in their lives. It’s my job to start the conversations.

It’s a small question and your kids might not even tell you the truth the first time you ask it. It might take time to get them to open up, but do your best to create a space where they can.

They still might get physically pushed down on the playground, but more than likely the bullying they’ll experience will be digital. Find out as fast as you can by asking simple questions consistently.