Cyber Bullying: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know

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One of my favorite things to talk about is the good that social media can do. Whether it's raising awareness about important issues, helping small business owners grow their business and change their lives, or helping people make new connections they never would have made otherwise, it's a tool that has transformed our world for the better in so many instances.

Unfortunately, there's a dark side to social media, especially when it comes to our children.  Cyber bullying is a problem that has been increasing in prevalence in recent years. And it requires serious attention from parents, educators, and traditional media to help protect our children from this threat. 

For many parents, we were raised in a time when people who were bullied were just encouraged to toughen up.  We're beginning to learn how dangerous this can be with many tweens and teens choosing to take their own life because of the shame and horror caused by cyber bullying. 

It's not just about toughening up.  Here's some information about the reality of cyber-bullying and how it's affecting teens in our communities.

THE HARD FACTS:

Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

But are parents as aware as they should be?  Not in the least.  A mere 7% of parents have cyber bullying on their radar screen. 

What are some things a parent can do right now to help prevent cyber bullying?

1. PRIVACY / SECURITY SETTINGS

Knowledge is power, and denying bullies any form of power is a good place to start.  Check your privacy and security settings for each platform, especially Facebook every time it changes. Do the same for your kids.

Stranger danger has changed online; assume that no one is who they say they are until proven otherwise. If you're the parent, you should review and approve all connection for the younger set.

2.  EDUCATE!

This is critical!  Educate yourself about the dangers of cyber bullying and pass it on to your kids as well.  If you're not making a point to stay on top of this threat, you'll lose your credibility and your ability to make a difference in this area of your kids' lives because you won't have a clue what you're talking about. Worse yet, they will know it.

Also, make sure your children are not bullying others! Have an open conversation about the following:

  • Protecting their passwords and making sure other people do not use their accounts.
  • Spreading rumors online or through texts or posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
  • Stealing a person's account information and using it senselessly
  • Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet
  • Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages (this isn't the time to preach to your children. This is a time where they need to know firmly you're on their side and trying hard to protect them).

3. LEGAL CONSEQUENCES!

The things teens post online now may reflect badly on them later when they apply for college or a job. Cyber bullies can lose their cell phone or online accounts for cyber bullying. Also, cyber bullies and their parents may face legal charges for cyber bullying, and if the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or involved sexting, the results can include being registered as a sex offender. You definitely do not want this to happen to your teen!

4. COMMUNICATION

Balance healthy need for autonomy in teens with responsibility to protect them. Establish an agreement with your teens that says if you're paying for the connection, electricity and equipment you have the right to set conditions for its use and periodically review it's contents. If you exercise that right, do so with wisdom. This isn't about coming down on your teen for little stuff you find online but about retaining the ability to keep them safe.

5. IF YOUR TEEN IS BULLIED

Parents have to stay aware of emerging trends and threats. And above all else, work to keep communication lines open with your kids. If you sense your communication is failing, don't be afraid to call professional help if needed.

  • Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyber bullying is occurring. Well over half of young people do not tell their parents.
  • Keep cyber bullying messages as proof that the cyber bullying is occurring.
  • The teens' parents may want to talk to the parents of the cyber bully, to the bully's Internet or cell phone provider, and/or to the police about the messages, especially if they are threatening or sexual in nature.

Have you had to deal with a cyber bully?  What has been the most effective method to get rid of this problem? Leave a comment below!

Comments

  1. Chinmay Sane says

    The tips you mentioned above are really great and I hope it will reduce the amount of bullying done on social networking sites, but we cannot abnegate the fact that most of the people who are targeted online are either below 18 or 'naughty' minds. Their parents hardly know about their online activities. So keeping an eye on their children will not be quite easy as it seems. I would rather advice people to maintain friendly relations with their kids so that their children will share everything with them as a friend.

    • Kim GarstKim Garst says

      Parents needs to be parents, we need to be proactive and involved. Most importantly, our children need to know that we are the safe-haven for them so that feel they can talk to us.

  2. says

    Hi Kim, this is an important post about a difficult subject.  As parents or grandparents it raises the question as to whether you should monitor children's internet use as it is too late once they have been harmed.  I note that only 7% of parents have cyber bullying on their radar.  I don't think it is because they don't care it is more that they just don't know – "not on their radar screen" is an excellent way to put it.
    I know that cyber bullying does not stop at the school gate and can be quite devastating to the victims.
    Thanks for this article.
     
    Kind regards.
     
    John Cosstick

  3. Sharyn says

    As a parent, it really scares me when I see how many different ways we have to connect with one another and from there, how many ways we can hurt one another. I most certainly agree that parents really need to start stepping up more and being parents, much like mine were for me and I try to be for my kids. I certainly agree that everyone needs to continue to educate themselves and those around them- most importantly our children!
    I must mention that part of the reason I was even searching through web sites about this topic was a young man I heard speak at my daughter's school at the beginning of the month. His name is Josh Gunderson and he presented a program for parents at the school about cyberbullying and other problems coming from the internet. I was blown away by what he had to say! I had no idea. One of the things he stressed to parents was to stay educated! He also made many of the suggestions I see here including keeping in touch which what's going on in your kids life and helping educate them about what to do in these situations.
    The morning after he spoke to the parents he presented for the students in an assembly. I have never seen my daughter so excited. She came home from school and, without any prompting, began to talk with me about what she learned at the assembly! She loved him and his message! Ever since we have talked a lot more and she has shared with me some of her favorite things about the internet.
    I would really encourage everyone to take this advice to heart and hopefully we can see a change in our society when it comes to bullying and responsible use of the internet! I would also suggest looking into programs like Josh's (http://www.joshgunderson.com) to be brought into schools. Something that can inspire and excite my daughter like that is certainly worth whatever price the school paid! I want to see my kids safe and one day I hope for the same of my grandkids!
    Thank you for this wonderful advice!

    • Kim GarstKim Garst says

      It is a huge problem, Sharyn. I did a small segment on Fox35 the other day and my focus was really on parents…they need to be aware and involved.

  4. says

    It’s true that there can be very harsh and severe punishments for adolescents bullying in a sexual nature. It’s so important to teach your children the very real and permanent consequences of sexting, or texting inappropriate images of underage individuals. Those that end up on a @sexoffenderregistry as a result of these actions can be lumped in with rapists, which can damage a reputation forever.

  5. says

    Great list Kim! Cyber bullying can be a very big problem especially that kids nowadays are active socially in the internet. Parents should make sure that they know their child’s online activity. Also, parents should monitor their child’s behavior to see if they are being bullied (online or not). Chances are, bullying at school may carry over to the internet.
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  6. says

    Hi Kim,
    Thanks for talking about this growing problem for today’s kids. Kids don’t bully in front of parents, whether it’s on the playground or online. Today’s bully’s (cyberbullies) use computer device screens to hide behind to attack their victims, often anonymously. Parents need to teach their kids appropriate behavior online in the same way they do offline to help stop cyberbullying. Then they need to check-in on their child’s online behavior to make sure they are following a “code of conduct” online. http://www.screenretriever.com/online-safety-rules-and-code-of-conduct-online Parental involvement and oversight will substantially help to reduce cyberbullying.
    Look what Victoria Kempf just posted..Apps, Apps Everywhere! Are You Aware?My Profile

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