How to prevent – and stop — Cyberbullying
In our last blog post, we discussed preparing for the new school year by taking certain safety precautions with your children’s internet use, whether on their smartphones, on home computers or even in the classroom. This week we’re going to continue that discussion by talking about cyberbullying. As children start a new year they naturally make many new friends. Most of the time, those friendships are healthy and normal. But sometimes friendships go sour. Our kids get bullied. And in the 21st century, that bullying can get very ugly – and very public — with the use of social media.
What exactly is cyberbullying? According to HelpGuide.org, “cyberbullying occurs when a person uses the Internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms, or other digital technology to harass, threaten or humiliate another person.”
A cyberbully can be a boy or a girl. He or she is often anonymous, able to hide behind a screen name. And with the internet, their bullying tactics can be employed 24/7 with the use of a smartphone or computer. Unlike physical or personal forms of bullying, cyberbullying can be very public. “With a few clicks,” HelpGuide says, “the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.”
The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating to a child of any age. That’s why it is so important for parents to monitor their children’s social media behavior using various methods to ensure their children’s safe and effective use of the internet for school work and positive social interactions. We put together a list of tips to help you keep tabs on your children’s online behavior and prepare you to handle instances of cyberbullying should they ever arise.
The best way to handle cyberbullying is to stop it before it starts with preventative measures.
Cyber Safety Tips for Kids – Preventing Cyberbullying
- Keep information private. Tell your child to never post or share his/her personal information online or on social networks. Remind him/her not to share friends’ information as well. Personal information may include their full name, school name – even on a shirt, email address, phone number, home address, DOB and no pictures of a new driving license!
- Don’t share passwords. No child should share passwords with anyone, except parents.
- Keep communication lines open. As with everything in your child’s life, ask questions; create dialog. Don’t pry or interrogate, but make conversation with your child about his/her online life. Create a sharing and open communication environment in your home.
- Be smart about what is shared. Remind your child that he/she may regret some of the photos or words used online. He/She should always think twice about what is posted online or said in an email.
- Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. One way you can do this is by installing a family safety app like MamaBear on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your child’s behavior on social networks, including when he/she makes new friends and is tagged in posts, photos or at locations. Be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to his/her profile.
What your child can do if faced with a cyberbully
- Do not respond to the cyberbully. According to ConnectSafely.org, if your child is being bullied, remind him/her that the bully wants a reaction. So tell your child not to give him what he wants.
- Block the cyberbully. Use preferences or privacy settings to block the bully. This might not make the problem go away, but it helps reduce the options a bully has for targeting a victim.
- Ask for help. Remind your child that if he/she is being bullied, it’s OK to ask a parent for help. He/She can also turn to a school counselor or teacher. He/She shouldn’t have to face cyberbullying alone. A comfortable solution can be worked on together.
- Report abuse. Use a social network’s “abuse” tools to report bullying to the social network administrators. If there is a physical threat involved, contact the authorities.
- Save any and all evidence. Thankfully, cyberbullying is usually recorded or saved somewhere and can be retrieved if necessary in the event that things get out of hand.
- Don’t retaliate: Don’t perpetuate the cycle of abuse by retaliating or resorting to the same kind of behavior as the cyberbully. ConnectSafely.org says “getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior.”
- Stand up for what’s right: Tell your kids not to participate in a cyberbullying culture. They can refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages and stand up against cyberbullying among their friends.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about cyberbullying. Thankfully, while cyberbullying is a very real threat, following these preventative measures and action steps can help any parent and child work together to stop a cyberbully in his tracks, leaving social media for its proper use: as a way to bond, share and strengthen positive relationships.