Back in the day, beat-downs, taunting, and other forms of bullying ruled the school playgrounds, hallways and buses. At least when you got home, you were safe from the clutches of the bully until the next school day. Boy, have times changed. Nowadays, kids not only have to endure being picked on at school, but they also have to deal with it at home too. So how to prevent Cyberbullying?
When kids cyberbully, they use social media, blogs, instant messaging and other electronic media platforms to harass, humiliate and insult their peers. A tween might hop on her social media account and post doctored photos and nasty comments about another child just to be mean. Other kids who know the victim via school, dance class, cheerleading, etc. will see the hateful posts, think they’re funny and jump on the bandwagon. Before you know it, the mean-spirited photos and comments take on a life of their own.
The rise in smartphone, tablet and computer use gives bullies unfettered access to the Internet. A few keystrokes and a couple of mouse clicks are all it takes to get the cyber-bully ball rolling. Cyberbullying is a growing trend. It has reached the point where parents can no longer act like it doesn’t exist.
In order to protect the victims, moms and dads have to teach their kids how to prevent cyberbullying. If they don’t it can cause the kind of emotional damage that will follow children for their whole lives. Studies suggest that kids who deal with Internet bullying feel:
- lack of confidence
- unable to trust
- physically ill
When children don’t deal with these negative emotions properly, it can lead them to:
- Withdraw from friends and family.
- Avoid social situations.
- Get poor grades in school.
- Sink into a deep depression and possibly deal with more serious mental issues.
In some instances, the children may turn into bullies themselves. In their minds, it’s better to be the predator than the prey. There are even documented cases where teens and tweens reached their breaking point and committed suicide over repeated cyberbully attacks.
Change social networking profiles to private. Encourage children to make their social media pages private and only allow certain friends on them. This will help keep bullies from attacking them while they are online. If someone sends your child a private message that’s threatening or harassing, contact the administrator of the site. This type of behaviour violates the site’s service terms and can get the bully banned.
Ignore nasty messages. Most bullies harass people on the Internet because they think the reactions they get are funny. When kids argue with the bullies, it only fans the flames. If Internet trolls don’t get reactions from their targets, they usually get bored and stop.
Change passwords. If your child’s social media account gets hacked, have her change the passwords. Also, remind your child to never share her passwords with anyone – not even her “best friend forever.” Your teen or tween never knows when password info might be used against her.
Block the bully. Blocking your child’s email and cell phone is the first line of defence against cyberbullying. If the bullies can’t text, call or email their targets, their ability to harass them is limited.
Contact the school. If the bully attends the same school as your child, talk to school authorities to see what they can do to prevent the harassment. When you go to the school for help, keep in mind that the administrators’ reach is often limited because of privacy concerns or outdated legislation.
Save harassing messages. Print out any harassing emails, web pages or texts your child gets. If the harassment was done via a school computer, take it to the principal. If it gets to the point where you fear for your child’s safety, take the harassing messages to the police.
Keeping pace with technology is a challenge, which makes monitoring kids’ cyberspace behaviour all the more difficult. It seems like no matter how hard you try, your kids are always a step ahead of you with regard to changing technology. However, if you don’t step up and teach your children how to prevent cyberbullying, they will suffer the consequences.