Why Parents Need to Monitor Kids’ Social Media Accounts

After Kurt Shilling and his daughter received dozens of vulgar tweets, it reminds us why it's so important to monitor our kids' social media accounts.

Retired baseball player Curt Schilling may have thought twice about sending a tweet to his daughter congratulating her on her acceptance to college if he would have known where it would lead them.

Schilling was so disturbed by the outcome of that tweet that he shared the experience in a blog post, “The world we live in… man has it changed.”

The post recounts the awful experience that Schilling and his daughter Gabby had with Twitter cyberbullies and trolls, and reminds parents everywhere why it’s so important to monitor their kids’ social media accounts and talk to them about how to protect them online.

What Schilling Learned About Social Media Bullying and Trolling

Schilling was a proud father congratulating his daughter on going to college and joining the school’s softball team. He wanted to share that pride with fans and followers.

But he got more than he bargained for when the tweets sent in response to his message went from congratulatory to downright vulgar.

The responses to Schilling’s post became filled with hateful, hurtful, and disgusting messages referencing his teenage daughter.

How Bad Can It Really Be?

Bad. We aren’t going to publish the terrible tweets that were sent to Schilling and later published on his blog. But if you don’t believe how bad it can really be, you can take a look at the tweets for yourself.

The sad truth is that this is not an uncommon situation on social media. Everyday cyberbullies and trolls send harassing and vulgar messages to people they know and people they don’t know.

Schilling admits that there are a lot of people that don’t like him as he is an outspoken conservative and former Red Sox player. But not even his decades spent living in a dorm room, hanging in a clubhouse, and playing on the field could have prepared him for what he found on his Twitter stream.

What’s In It for the Cyberbullies and Trolls?

Online harassment can be put into two categories. Psychology Today defines those categories as cyberbullying and trolling.

Cyberbullying is deliberate and repeated harmful statements or content with the purpose to:

  • get revenge
  • feel empowered
  • gain popularity
  • harass
  • be offensive
  • upset someone
  • intimidate a person

Cyberbullying is usually initiated by someone the victim knows. Trolling, on the other hand, is usually done by someone the victim doesn’t know.

“Trolls” send messages to start arguments or make people feel angry or upset with the purpose to:

  • entertain the “troll”
  • be offensive and argumentative
  • to bait the user into further dialog
  • gain recognition
  • feel powerful

In Schilling’s case, it seems to be a little of both. There were targets against him directly, and others that just seemed to stir the pot. Parents need to keep an eye out for both types of harassment as each can be equally harmful to children.

What You Can Do To Help Your Child

Sometimes it takes a parent witnessing social media bullying first hand to really understand the depths and the severity of online harassment. But through Schilling’s experience, parents can see just how important it is to monitor their kids’ social media accounts.

Parents need to stay vigilant and that means getting involved with their child’s digital life and social media world. They need to make sure that their child is not a target on social media or witnessing vulgar harassment that is sent to other users.

As a parent, you can  get involved and stay connected using MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™. The free app, available on iPhone and Android devices, sends parents messages anytime their child receives a direct message or is mentioned in a tweet, making it much easier to monitor online experiences and protect kids from online bullies and “trolls.”

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Do You Know Enough About Cyberbullying to Protect Your Children?

Despite what parents may think, cyberbullying includes far more than name-calling. Discover just how sinister a cyberbully can really be.

For far too many parents, cyberbullying is a term they have heard but don’t quite understand.

Parents can relate to and understand bullying on its own. It’s something they likely experienced or saw first-hand when they were kids and teenagers. But cyberbullying, which grows and evolves every day, is something most parents have never witnessed.

Cyberbullying, the act of posting mean, intimidating or threatening messages online, usually anonymously, utilizing technology as the weapon is a much newer and different format. This disconnect leaves many parents in the dark when it comes to the actual severity of this issue.

Despite what parents may think, cyberbullying includes far more than name-calling. Mashable recently shared two stories that show just how sinister a cyberbully can really be.

Cyberbullying May Include Stalking

Cyberbullying doesn’t always stay online. It can creep into real life, invade personal space, and create physical danger.

Mashable reports that for two 12-year-olds in Texas, online comments turned into real life fear when their cyberbully sent message describing what the girls were wearing and doing while inside of their house.

Just because the harassment is online doesn’t mean it will remain online. Cyberbullying can be just as serious as stalking.

Cyberbully May Include Digital Hacking

Posting tormenting messages through social media is only a portion of cyberbullying. People intending to bring harm to others may even use their own social media accounts against them.

Hacking meets cyberbullying when an abuser attempts or succeeds into accessing an account owned by the victim.

The bully-hacker may then change or delete their photos and information or post embarrassing photos and updates.

As the Mashable article reports, the mother of a cyberbullying victim became a victim herself when her Instagram account was hacked by her child’s abuser. The mom logged in to find her profile photo deleted and her bio changed to, “I’m a hater, lol.” During the same time, there were two dozen attempts to log in to her blog from an unfamiliar IP address.

Smart cyberbullies can get into their victims’ personal accounts and use those accounts to cause additional harm.

Cyberbully May Include Security Breaches To Online Networks and Phones

Hacking paired with cyberbullying can go even further. The same family dealing with account hacking found their entire home wireless network compromised when they lost administrative privileges for the network.

The family ran a search and found four different IP addresses assigned to their home network. Two of those addresses were linked to a small town over 50 miles from their home.

Struggling to find out what could resolve the security issues, the family spent over $6,400 on cell phone bug detectors, home security systems, a private security network, cell phones, a laptop, router, and printer.

The hacking created a scary and expensive situation for both child and parent.

Cyberbully May Include Security Breaches To Online Networks and Phones
Image: Mashable

How You Can Fight Cyberbullying

One of the best ways to help your child and family fight cyberbullying and the dangers that come with it is by being proactive.

Parents need to get involved with their child’s Internet activity early on, discuss online etiquette, expectations and rules of behavior, and monitor their engagements online. Monitoring and identifying problems early on is essential to helping our kids safely navigate their evolving digital environment. Also, making sure you, as a parent, have an open door policy for your children to come to you and discuss what they might see as issues or problems as they navigate their online world.

With the help of MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™, you can easily see your child’s interactions on social media, know what they post, know who their friends are and know if they are being approached or bullied. This enables you to identify problems quickly and help your child put a stop to the situation before it grows into a more complex and dangerous situation. The Mama Bear app is free and available for both iPhone or Android devices.

Recommended Reading:

1. Building a Safer Twitter with Improved Tools to Report Cyberbullying

2. Parents Can’t Afford To Ignore Their Kids’ Social Media

3. Social Media, Bullying and What You Can Do to Help

Parents Can’t Afford To Ignore Their Kids’ Social Media

Parents Can’t Afford To Ignore Their Kids’ Social Media

To those around him, Jaylen Ray Fryberg seemed like a normal high school freshman. He was well liked and happy, played on the football team and had recently been crowned Homecoming Prince. Around family, friends and classmates, Fryberg gave off the impression that he was a typical, upbeat teen.

That’s why those who knew him were shocked to learn that Fryberg entered his high school cafeteria and opened fire on his classmates, killing one before taking his own life. That was not the Fryberg they knew.

But only after the tragic events of his death was another side of Fryberg revealed — through his Twitter account. The happy, friendly disposition that Fryberg gave off during in-person contact was starkly different than the way he appeared on Twitter. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Fryberg’s Twitter feed was filled with disturbing updates where he openly expressed anger, sadness and aggression.

While his page was filled with updates that clearly indicated the teenager was going through something really troubling, no one realized this until it was too late. Fryberg’s tragedy reminds us just how important it is for parents to connect with their children in their social media worlds in order to see all sides and spot problems early on.

Looks for Signs of Distress that May Not Be Visible In Real Life

Friends said the Fryberg they saw in person and the Fryberg they saw on Twitter seemed like two different people. On the day of his ominous final tweet, (“it won’t last…. It’ll never last….”), one of his classmates said that Frybeg was “all fine” at football practice that day.

As parents, we need to realize that how our kids act in front of us may not tell their full story. We need to keep our eyes open to underlying issues and use social media as a window into what our kids are really thinking and feeling.

Remember That Your Kids May Have More Than One Account on the Same Platform

It’s easy to set up multiple usernames on the same social media platform. So be mindful of this when reviewing your child’s account. If you notice that they are not active on the account you know about, ask them if they are using another. Pay attention to their friends and notice if they are tagging or communicating with your child at another username.

Check the Direct Messages To and From Your Child

Not all social media is public. Remember to check private messages that your child is sending and receiving. Look for communication that could be hurtful to both parties. Stopping your child from sending hurtful messages to other children is also part of your job in protecting your child from dangerous situations.

Related: Social Media, Bully and What You Can Do to Help

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late — Connect to Your Child’s Social Media Life Now

As a parent, you should connect to all of your child’s social media accounts and regularly monitor how they are using those sites. You can use a platform like MamaBear Family Safety App which to receive notifications when they get new followers and friends, easily view photos uploaded and set alerts for certain language and phrases.

It is our job as parents to know what is going on in our children’s lives offline and online. So don’t look the other way when it comes to social media and connect with your child now using a social media monitoring platform like MamaBear App which is available for both iPhones and Androids.

Social Media, Bullying and What You Can Do to Help

Social Media, Bullying and What You Can Do to Help | MamaBear App

Statistics from DoSomething.org show that nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online and another 70% have seen bullying online. But with only one out of ten victims reporting this type of abuse to an adult, cyberbullying isn’t always an easy problem for parents to identify.

Parents must be proactive and prepared to protect their children from social media bullying.

Keep an Eye on What’s Going On

The best way to know what’s going on in your child’s social world is to see it for yourself.

  • Help your kids set up their accounts. Kids want to be independent and sooner or later, they are going to set up their own social media profiles. Instead of waiting for them to sign up, get involved early. Help them set up their accounts, and use that opportunity to tour the site together, set privacy settings and discuss the dangers as well as social etiquette. When you set up their profile, explain you need a copy of their password and username, not because you want to snoop, but because you want to keep them safe. It’s responsible parenting.

  • Make monitoring a habit. Being on the social site yourself and friending or following your children make your presence known as a form of monitoring but also providing a sense of security to your kids. Plus, it will keep you up-to-date on social sites so you are more educated on their trends and purposes.  Using third party services like MamaBear App can help save time filtering need to know information with customized word list to monitor with timely mobile notifications.

  • Put limitations on phone and computer use. Setting boundaries is important in all relationships.  Set limits on time and place for device use. Limit computer use to a central location where you can periodically pop in and see the screen. If your children have phones for games and emergencies, they don’t need their device with them 24/7. Here are some ideas for a cellphone contract that can guide you in creating these boundaries.

Related: Helping Your Teen be Safe on Social Media

Save the Evidence

If you happen to find an indication of bullying on your child’s social sites, make sure to save the evidence.

Many online sites make it easy to take down messages, so be sure to capture proof while you still can. This evidence might be vital in filing a complaint, so take a screenshot that includes the date and username of the bully.

Block and Report the Bully

Block and report any user that shows signs of bullying directly from your child’s account. You can also file a complaint separate from your child’s account. Many popular social sites also allow you to file a report even if you don’t have your own account.

Talk About It

Talk to your child about what happened. Discuss that bullying isn’t acceptable and reassure them that you are there to listen and answer any of their questions about the situation.

By planning ahead and properly addressing the problem, you are teaching your child how to protect themselves in the future. But as a parent it’s up to you to be proactive and make sure they stick to the plan.

Download the MamaBear Family Safety app, available for iPhones and Androids, to connect with your child’s social media accounts and ensure that they are engaging in a safe and healthy social media environment.