We all probably experienced some form of bullying as we were growing up, but for most of us, we could find refuge from the neighborhood or schoolyard bully inside the safe walls of our home. Today’s tech-savvy kids are using technology to target their peers, and unfortunately, there are no off hours; cyberbullying can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Cyberbullying is defined as bullying or harassment that happens online or through network-connected devices. This willful and repeated harm, inflicted through technology, might involve rumors, name-calling, or images or videos posted on someone’s profile or forwarded or shared online for others to see. Sometimes a bully will even impersonate a peer or create a group or page that makes fun of an individual or makes them feel left out.
- Get the conversation going.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Ask your child:
Has anyone ever hurt your feelings by anything they posted about you online or sent you via text?
Have you ever texted, messaged, or posted anything online that you wish you could take back?
What messages do your pictures and posts say about you? Could anyone use the images, videos, or messages you post online to make fun or bully you?
- What kinds of information do you consider safe and unsafe?
- Have any of your friends been cyberbullied? How did that make you feel?
- What would you do if a friend was being bullied online?
- Are your profiles set to private?
- Help them to understand that if they wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, then they shouldn’t say it online.
- Ask your kids to come to you and let you know if they ever feel threatened, hurt, or scared by an online message, text, or image. If you ever fear for your child’s safety, contact local authorities immediately.
- Check up on your child’s texts and online communications.
- Use privacy controls on social networking profiles, and remind your child never to share their password to a peer.
- Don’t overreact or escalate the situation. If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, tell them not to respond. Bullies are typically hoping to engage with and elicit a reaction from their targets. Instead, encourage your child to come to you if the bullying continues.
- Block or delete the bully, but keep a copy of the evidence. If your child is being bullied online, use the technology resources available to block them, remove them from your child’s “friend” or “buddy” list, or block the user’s email and phone number. If you do find that your child has been bullied, don’t delete the evidence; if legal measures must be taken, you will need the chats, messages, and copies of the texts for authorities.
- Help stop cyberbullying. If your child sees cyberbullying happening to someone else, encourage him or her to try to stop it. Your child should abstain from forwarding or sharing any cyberbullying content from another peer and should ask the bully to stop. Your child can also report the bullying to social networking sites or talk to you about engaging with the bully’s parents.
- Watch out for warning signs that your child may be the victim of a cyberbully. If your child is reluctant to go to school, get online, use their mobile device, or if you notice a sharp change in mood or behavior, they may be victims of cyberbullying.
- Consider using monitoring software, like SafeEyes (http://www.internetsafety.com/xxxchurch), to help keep you up to speed on what your kids are doing online.