Are you worried your child might be a victim of cyberbullying? Check out the following tips from Internet safety expert Ryan Moreau.
Childhood bullies aren't limited to the playground anymore and are now using cell phones and social media to bully fellow students. As parents, it is our job to keep our children safe. If you have a child or teen who goes online or has a mobile device capable of receiving or sending texts, they are at risk of being victimized.
Living in today's world, you've no doubt heard of cyberbullying but how much do you really know about it? To help keep your kids safe, start here:
- What should you do if your child is being cyberbullied?
- How can you tell if they're being victimized?
- At what age should you discuss Internet safety?
Ryan Moreau, Internet safety expert, answers these questions for us and provides tips on making your family computer safer for your kids.
Q: What steps should I take if my child is being cyberbullied?
A: There are some easy steps you can follow if your child is being cyberbullied. Let them know to come to you first, and then assess the level of severity and type of bully. If the cyberbullying is severe–such as threatening physical harm to your child, their family or friends–it may be appropriate to contact the local police department, especially if the cyberbully is anonymous. If you or your child knows the cyberbully, it would appropriate to contact school administrators and have them handle approaching the bully's parents. Engaging with the cyberbully directly can escalate the situation, so make sure your child does not respond to messages from a cyberbully. That can help prevent additional negative messages. Also tell your child not to delete the messages because they can be kept as a record of the malicious behavior. Cyberbullying is easier to prevent than to fix, so change any account information and have your child turn off the computer. By walking away, they become less accessible to bullying and harassment and are less affected by the situation. Assure them that life goes on without a Facebook profile!
Q: How can I tell if my child is a victim of cyberbullying?
A: The most important things you can ask yourself or your child are: (1) is the behavior directed at your child specifically, and (2) is it repetitive behavior or a one-time occurrence? These two questions can also help you better define what counts as cyberbullying. Sometimes people act differently on the Internet because they feel it gives them the cover of anonymity. If this is how they act to everyone, they may be simply expressing themselves in a bad way; but if it is only toward your child, then your child may be a victim of cyberbullying.
When checking into a potential cyberbullying situation, consider whether or not the behaviors are repeated. One mean message could be a misunderstanding or misinterpretation or even unintentional. However, if your child keeps receiving mean messages, it's likely an attempt at bullying.
Q: What's a good age for me to start educating and talking to my kids about Internet safety?
A: It is never too soon for you to begin educating your children about Internet safety. As soon as a child begins using the Internet, it's a good time for you to begin discussions about online activity. Before age 10, you should be a guide and a direct part of their Internet use. After age 10, you should engage in regular conversations with your kids about their online usage, habits, and whereabouts. This open dialogue will encourage your kids to speak to you about any potential or future issues they encounter, such as cyberbullying.
Q: How can we make our family computer safer for our kids?
A: There a few things you can do as parents to make sure your family computer is safe for your kids to use. First, keep the computer in a public space of the home. A kitchen, family room, or any high-traffic area will allow you to see what kind of activity is taking place on the computer. Next, establish a set of guidelines for your kids to follow. This allows you to check in regularly on whether your children are following or not following the guidelines, while also opening the discussion about what they're doing and seeing online. Lastly, ensure that all security and safety settings are enabled on the programs your kids use. Ask them to explain their privacy settings on social media channels-and the importance of using these settings.
For more information: Ryan Moreau is an Internet safety expert with Kiwi Commons (www.KiwiCommons.com), a site dedicated to providing information and resources on Internet safety. He specializes in educating parents and teens about cyberbullying, digital footprinting, and online safety.
Article courtesy of Manhattan Mom.
Gwynn Cassicy is a New York mother who blogs at Manhattan Mom.