Technology has completely revolutionized the way we live and communicate. Unfortunately, ease of communication has a dark side. Cyberbullying has become commonplace, with around half of all children admitting that they have been bullied online. Cyberbullying can cause low self-esteem, depression and, at its worst, suicidal thoughts.
In 2012, Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, posted a video on YouTube that garnered over 17 million views. In it, she detailed her struggles with self-harm and bullying. A month after she made the video, she hanged herself in her home. She was fifteen.
In today’s technology-driven world, kids have continuous access to one another, creating a platform for relentless teasing. Parents must be more vigilant than ever to ensure their children’s safety and emotional well-being.
Protect Your Child Against Cyberbullying
Parents may feel at a loss in what is still relatively uncharted territory. But being on top of the situation will help keep your child from being a victim – or perpetrator – of online bullying. Here’s what to do.
- Stay Involved
The internet is a wonderful tool for studying and connecting with others, but it’s also full of dangers. As a parent, it’s your duty to be actively involved in your child’s internet activity. There are several ways in which to stay involved and be aware of how your child is communicating – align their values with your personal parenting philosophy. For example, you could review your child’s social media activity together once a week, or set blocks on certain websites. At the very least, your children should need your permission before setting up accounts on any website. The more you know about what’s happening online, the better equipped you’ll be to handle potential challenges.
- Talk to Your Child About Responsible Internet Use
Each parent sets their own internet rules. But all parents should encourage their children not to create relationships with people they don’t know in real life. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, such as an online pen pal organized through a reputable organization. Teach your children to never accept friend requests from people they don’t know, and to show you any suspicious messaging or activity.
When it comes to posting, teach your children that everything they publish is out there permanently – even with Snapchat. Even if you delete a post, you never know who has taken a screenshot or other measures to share it. Encourage your children to think carefully about what they post and when.
Here’s an example of an internet-use rule. Before posting, ask yourself: Is it relevant? Is it polite? Is it appropriate? If they can’t answer yes to all three questions, they shouldn’t post it.
- Have Access to Your Child’s Phone
This is a tricky one for parents, especially when they want their children to feel autonomous and trusted. But knowing how to check your child’s phone is important in today’s world, especially if you notice behavioral changes in your child. Use your own parenting philosophy to guide how, when, and if you check your child’s messages and apps, but always know how in case the situation warrants it.
- Keep Records
If your child tells you about cyberbullying, take immediate action. If the bully attends the same school as your child, talk to a teacher or administrator. Many schools are expanding their cyberbullying policies to include what happens outside of classrooms, but rules vary by state, even by municipality.
If contacting a school isn’t helpful, go to the source and send a certified “cease and desist” letter to the bully’s parents. Include photocopies of evidence, such as text conversations or social media comments. Certifying the letter helps tell the parent’s you’re serious about getting the behavior to stop, and they can be held liable.
Finally, if sending a formal letter doesn’t stop, go to the local police and ask to file a report, and contact an attorney for further guidance.