Parents Can Stop Cyber-Bullying
Start By Talking To your Children
Nearly 43% of children and teens have been bullied online
1 in 4 has had it happen more than once
Children and teens today are more connected to the world outside of their home and schoolyard than ever before in history. The Internet is a vast entertaining, educational and unparalleled social network offering everyone the keys to, and a view of virtually every corner of the world. Unfortunately, it is also a playground for the predators and abusers that use keyboards to inflict harm. We can fight back with our keyboards, label them cowards or shame them across the multitude of social media platforms, but mostly, that ultimately has little effect on the overarching problem.
Cyber-bullying primarily takes place when a child is at home. Parents can help to prevent or stop cyber-bullying simply by getting involved with their children by understanding what is going on in their lives both in and outside of school. Before handing over a computer or smart phone to your child, have the conversation with them. Make them aware of some simple and effective rules of behavior while online and how they can stay safe and avoid some of the traps associated with falling prey to cyber-bullies.
It’s important that parents learn about cyberbullying and that they get involved in preventing or stopping it.
Some Sobering Statistics
• Over 80% of children and teens use a cell phone on a daily basis, making it the single most common medium for cyber-bullying.
• Only 1 in 10 victims of cyber-bullying will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
• 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.
• About 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out 10 say it has happened more than once.
• About 75% of students admit they have visited a website bashing another student.
• Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.
• Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.
Tips to Share with your Children to Ensure a Safe Online Experience
• Never, ever respond to anyone who sends a mean or threatening message. Save it or print it out and show it to an adult. Do not try to ‘fix it’ with the bully or turn to your friends to fix it; take it to your parents or another responsible adult.
• Always be as polite online as you are in person. Do not lower yourself to the same level as a bully.
• Help your friends who may be bullied online by not joining in, but by letting your parents, their parents or other responsible adults know what is going on.
• Do not give your personal information to anyone online, whether by instant message, chat rooms, blogs, social media apps or personal websites. Never tell anyone but your parents your password, not even your friends.
• Do not post or send anything online or through email that you wouldn’t want your classmates or anyone else to see.
• Never open emails or other social media attempts to contact from someone you don’t know or from someone you know is a bully.
• Never send a message when you’re angry. Before clicking ‘send’, ask yourself how you would feel if you were receiving the message.
• If you have any questions about cyberbullying or find yourself in an uncomfortable position with someone online, talk to your parents or a responsible adult. Do not ‘let it ride’ in hopes that it won’t happen again, or assume it was ‘just one of those things’.
• Never, ever blame yourself for being bullied. Do not be afraid to tell your parents because you think they may blame you if you get cyber-bullied. Your parents are there to protect you, not place blame or take away privileges. Many kids won’t tell their parents or adults because of this fear; do not fear it’s not your fault.
Information for Parents
• Keep your home ‘family’ computer is a busy area of your house where you can see what your children are doing online. Children like their privacy just as much as adults do, but letting a 13 year old online alone is like dropping them off at a mall alone and driving off. You wouldn’t let them go off alone in a place like a mall; don’t let them wander off online without an occasional check or watchful eye.
• Set up email, social media and chat accounts with your children. Record their screen names and passwords and endure they don’t include any personal information in their online profiles. Let them know that they should guard their personal information with the same determination as they would their wallet or personal diary.
• Most kids today friend most anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not they know them. It is all about ‘likes’ and popularity, more so than ever before. Any given child may have 500 or more ‘friends’ on Instagram, but actually only know 10-20 of them. It is the 480 ‘unknown’ that harbors the greatest potential for a cyber-bullying experience. What your child’s 10-20 real friends may find interesting or funny, may be a trigger for an intolerant individual masquerading as a ‘friend’.
• On a regular basis, review the social media apps they use as well as their ‘friends lists’ with them. Ask them flat out if they know all of the people on the lists.
• Bookmark or print lists of commonly used acronyms found in the links below and post it by your computer. ‘Computerspeak’ or ‘Textspeak’ is a language unto its own today and children can send and receive short-simple messages that can leave you scratching your heads.
• Discuss cyberbullying with your children and ask if they have ever experienced it, or have seen it happen to someone. Make this a routine (monthly or periodically) discussion and involve the entire family. Let your kids know who they can turn to for help in addition to you, and let them also know that the same rules that apply to others apply to them as well. It works both ways.
Comprehensive lists of common texting acronyms and their meanings