5 Tips on Preventing Cyberbullying
When I was growing up, there was a bully in every schoolyard. They would purposely slap the lunch tray from your hands in the cafeteria and sit just close enough to you in class to quietly shoot spitballs down the back of your shirt. Some bullies would threaten to beat you up after the 3 o’clock bell – every day.
Gossip was rampant, and YOU were always the punchline. It was physical, verbal and emotional torture.
These forms of what I like to call “traditional” bullying are still present today, but they pale in comparison to a much more frightening and dangerous form of bullying that has been bred out of our society’s love for the Internet – Cyberbullying.
Unlike schoolyard bullying, you can’t see your cyberbully. Today, the Internet and easy access to it through mobile devices allows the sharing of information at unprecedented rates. They allow us to record our lives, share information to the world, and make comments on the information shared by others. Information that used to be closely held is now public and available to be used by anyone who finds it.
The problem is that there are people out there who will use that information and the ability to remain incognito as a way to bully someone. Instead of simply threatening a supposed “inferior”
classmate only in the schoolyard, the bully will send threats and sexual comments via texts and emails – long after the school day is done – just to embarrass someone.
Our children are tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed and targeted. And the sad part is that it can easily go undetected because of the lack of parental supervision.
Some of these may be a bit old, but here are a few sobering cyberbullying statistics I found across the Internet. I pulled them from various reliable sources.
- Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
- 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of
themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras.
- Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyberbullying.
- Cyberbullying can affect anyone.
- Over 50% of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
The technological culture parents face is overwhelming and causes many to ignore the threat of cyberbullying. But our children need to know the dangers, and how to handle them when situations arise.
Here are 5 tips on preventing cyberbullying:
1.Know Which Sites/Applications Your Child Uses (and Might Use)
Every parent needs to be up-to-date on the latest applications and social media trends. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram have largely replaced Facebook among younger users. Keep track of what is trending in social media and consistently look at the applications that your child is using. Monitor the sites they visit and make sure you are following them and their friends.
2.Educate your children
There are parents who refuse to broach explicit topics simply because they don’t want their children exposed to it at all. That’s a huge mistake. You need to make sure your kids understand what cyberbullying is and why it’s dangerous. Go through scenarios with them to see how they respond. Ask them who they would go to for help, and make sure they understand that they can talk to you – their parent – about absolutely anything.
3.Get All Logins and Passwords
In our home, internet use is a privilege not a right. You should require your child to provide you with his or her logins and passwords to each and every site, social media account, and/or device. If this demand sparks a tantrum, then your child is not ready for his or her own device or instant access to the Internet! If your child does not want to provide you with this information you should ask yourself what they are hiding.
4.Take every threat or concern seriously
Kids concoct trivial issues in their daily lives, so the typical “who is crushing on who” and “who stole who’s boyfriend” may be things you can’t concern yourself with as much. But don’t completely dismiss what your child is telling you until you get the FULL story. Ask questions, press them, offer advice and keep an eye out for it. By not taking their words serious, your child will one day stop sharing information with you.
5.Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Listen, we’re not all going to be tech savvy. I get it. So don’t be afraid to ask other friends and family for help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a principal at the school or local law enforcement. Sometimes it takes a village to protect our children, and you need to be open to that possibility.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. The biggest “bonus” tip I can give you is to set a good example for your children. What do you convey on the Internet with your own social media usage? Do your postings convey an accurate picture of who you are? Do your postings lift others up or tear them down? These questions must be considered by all of us, and we must lead by example.