5 Tips To Protect Children From Cyberbullying
We have reached the age where traditional schoolyard bullying now occurs through social media and texting. Victims can be targeted in any place and at any time. Bullies, often bolstered by the impersonal nature of the Internet, have found their virtual playground.
Cyberbullying is when kids bully each other through electronic devices like smart phones and computers. Bullies can send mean or threatening texts or messages directly to their victim. They also target victims indirectly through a more public forum like a group discussion page. While studies around the frequency of cyberbullying vary widely, but it's clearly a common problem children face online today.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue, but as a parent, you can take control to keep your children safe. Here are five keys to protect your child from cyberbullying.
1. Help children understand cyberbullying
Help them understand what it means to be both the aggressor and the victim of bullying. Ask them what they think might constitute bullying behavior, or if they or someone they know has felt victimized online. It’s a great opportunity for a dialogue with your child, so come armed with information, but also prepare to listen. If you’re not sure yourself what bullying is, or need a refresher, there are many resources online like StopBullying.gov.
2. Set guidelines and best practices
The Internet doesn’t come with an eraser. A good rule of thumb to not put anything online that they wouldn’t want their family and peers to see. Said another way: if you wouldn’t say it in person, it’s probably not a good idea to post online. Kids should be thoughtful and courteous when engaging online, so help them understand that they shouldn’t send something out of anger without thinking about the implications.
Also make sure your children know how to protect their account passwords. They should create their passwords with care so that they don’t include information that is easily accessed. Instead of using personal information like a name, street, birthday or pet name, create passwords that are made up of unique characters. Also remind your children never to share passwords, even with their best friend. Bullies — or worse — can use passwords to impersonate children online in a hurtful way. Consider using a password management system like LastPass to help keep login information secure.
Finally, consider establishing a family contract for online safety to set clear expectations and foster a dialogue around Internet etiquette.
3. Be alert
Whether you think your child might be a target for cyberbullying or you just want to be a proactive parent, make sure you know the signs to look for. Some of these signs include seeming uneasy or anxious when they receive an alert or text, not wanting to go to school, having trouble sleeping, or being overly angry or upset. While you could chalk many of these signs up to typical adolescent behavior, as their parent, you are often the first to know when something is off. Don’t be afraid to ask your child if something is bothering them (but be prepared to ask them a series of questions to gently pull it out of them!).
Parents in the age of cyberbullying also often struggle to decide between constantly trying to monitor their children’s lives and giving them space and trusting them to do what’s right. A digital safety solution can help parents find the right balance – alerting you to potential threats and providing evidence should your child be a victim of cyberbullying, without having to comb through all their texts and social media accounts.
4. Be their support system
Let your child know they can come to you about any concern they have, and you will address it together. Try to remain calm and understanding when you do have these conversations with your child. If they feel like they can talk about their issues without you reacting in anger or being upset, they will be more likely to approach you in the first place. It’s often hard for victims to reach out for help, so reinforcing that you are there for them is extremely important.
5. Figure out the response
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying or you want to equip them with the tools should they find themselves a victim, it’s important that they know how to respond. Teach them to not engage the bully. Hold on to any text or message that contains threatening or hurtful remarks; this is evidence and should be reported. They can, and should, report these instances to you, a teacher or any trusted adult.
As a parent, make sure you are the example too. It’s extremely important that you not respond or act out in anger or other negative emotions, but be thoughtful in your responses as well.
Cyberbullying is happening, but arming yourself with tools and resources is the best way to protect your child from becoming a victim.
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Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.