Most parents would agree that bullying is a big problem in schools. And parents frequently find themselves being proactive in terms of monitoring what’s going on in the schoolyard. But some may not be aware of the fact that bullying can continue to happen within the safety of their own home via cyberbullying. What can parents do to help?
With the increased use of technology, children today are growing up as natives of a digital world. According to a study published September 5, 2013, 93% of teens use the Internet and nine out of every 10 children have access to a computer at home. Even fairly young children may have smart phones with internet capability. However, despite young people’s comfort and familiarity with this digital world, this study also found that most students have very limited knowledge about internet safety when it comes to protecting themselves from cyberbullying.
The study concluded that unless parents monitor children’s online activity and teach them the risks of inappropriate or risky online behaviors, their children stand a good chance of becoming victims. So here are some practical tips for parents:
Be aware of what constitutes cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can include the following kinds of harassment:
- Verbal: name-calling, teasing
- Social: leaving people out on purpose, spreading rumors and lies, sabotaging friendships
- Psychological: forcing people to do things against their will, threatening them
- Racial: disparaging others on the basis of their race or ethnic heritage
- Intellectual: making fun of those who struggle with learning challenges, shaming them
- Sexual: inappropriate pictures or remarks
Be aware of warning signs that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying, including the following behaviors:
- Missing school from fear and anxiety
- Becoming antisocial
- Having trouble studying and concentrating
- A change in sleep patterns
- Traumatic stress symptoms
- A desire to be isolated from the world
- An increased use of, or dependence on, technology
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
- A lack of trust
- A change in appetite
- Unexpected or random outbursts of anger
Teach your kids how to protect themselves online. The NO BULL Youth Advisory Council offers these suggestions for staying safe using social media:
- Protect your passwords. Never give your passwords to anyone except your parents.
- Think about the words and pictures you post before you post them.
- Do not connect with strangers.
- Set your privacy settings on all social media to private.
- Limit personal information on your account.
- Block and report people you don’t know from posting on your account or people who are doing inappropriate things.
- Don’t be afraid to delete your Facebook account, or call your wireless provider to block cyberbullies.
Taking the time to discuss these points with your kids and helping them use technology safely will be time well spent.