Cyberbullying is a hot topic this week—as it should. A 2011 KidsHelpPhone survey on cyberbullying reported that 65% of the child respondents said YES to having been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying is a real and present danger for our children. How do we, as parents, prevent our kids from being cyberbullied? How to we protect them from the dangers of virtual frenemies and outright enemies?
What is Cyberbullying?
According to Wikipedia, "Cyberbullying is the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner."
This includes: embarrassing, threatening, hate messages, posting humiliating pictures, stalking, revealing confidential information, intimidation, and harassment.
"Related technologies" include tools, such as:
- Chat groups
- Instant messaging
These corners of the web are our kids hangouts; however, some kids (or groups of kids) turn these hangouts into rooms of horror.
What do we, as parents, do?
- Discover your kid: Be supportive and open. I know this is sometimes hard to do in our busy lives, but take the time to sit down with your kids and share conversations about your day. What good things happened? What bad things happened? Show interest in their lives, hobbies, and activities. Watch for signs of cyberbullying (change in mood, withdrawal from activities or school, or emotional distress).
- Have the talk: Ensure your child knows how to use the internet responsibly—keep passwords private, and no sexting, mean texting, posting inappropriate pictures (the internet has a long memory of images), sharing personal information, etc. Bascially, if you wouldn't want your Mom to see or hear it, you shouldn't post it.
- Block it: Set up parental controls for kids, so that you have some control over what they see, do, and visit on the internet. Learn how to unfriend someone on Facebook or block specific people on Twitter.
- Know their online life: I'm not saying virtually stalk your own child, but be aware of where they go on the web. Friend them on Facebook and visit their wall once in a while to see postings. Follow their Twitter feed. Do a quick internet history browse on your computer and just glean where they have been spending their time online.
- Tell them to go to a trusted teacher or kidshelpphone.ca (1-800-668-6868): FREE, confidential, and anonymous (you don't have to tell them your name, if you don't want to), it's a Canadian service where kids and teens can talk (or chat online) with a trained counselor—day or night—about a problem. Their website also has a lot of great information for parents.
Cyberbullying goes beyond mean, into a world of instant, long-term hurt. Do what you can to prevent and protect your kids.
65% of kids being cyberbullied is 65% too much.
For more on cyberbullying and what you can do to prevent it, click here.