Cyberbullying is a growing social problem that has become all too common in online communities. In fact, cyberbullying has replaced bullying as the common type of harassment teens experience. Research indicates that one in five tweens has been cyberbullied.
Children who are cyberbullied struggle emotionally, physically, mentally, and academically. Cyberbullying leaves young people feeling hurt, alone, embarrassed, and sometimes scared. Many kids who are targeted report being ostracized at school, and this experience impacts their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Ultimately, cyberbullying can lead to self-harm and even suicidal thoughts.
Because the risks associated with cyberbullying are so significant, it's important that parents take steps to prevent cyberbullying in their kids' lives.
While there is no foolproof way to prevent your child from being cyberbullied, there are things you can do together to reduce the likelihood they will be targeted. This includes implementing safety measures as well as having ongoing conversations about cyberbullying. Talk with your child about what cyberbullying is, the risks associated with experiencing it, and how it can escalate. Being proactive is key to helping your child deal with a bully.
Talk to your tweens and teens about how to use social media safely and responsibly and what they should do if they are bullied online.
Protect accounts and devices. It's important that your child use passwords on everything. Passwords are one of the most effective ways to protect accounts and devices.
Use privacy tools and settings. Almost every social media platform has privacy settings. Go through each account with your child and help them set their privacy settings to the most secure settings.
Keep personal stuff private. Kids should never share their address, phone number, or email address online. They should be careful about sharing too much information about where they go to school, especially if they have friends or followers online that they don't know well. Remind them that people are not always who they claim to be online.
Refuse to respond to cyberbullies. If your child does experience cyberbullying, they should refrain from responding. They should not argue, try to explain, or engage in any way with a cyberbully, and they should take screenshots of the harassment and save it as proof of the encounter. This documentation may be needed when reporting a cyberbully.
Report cyberbullies. Make sure your child knows they should always report cyberbullying. This includes not only telling you what is happening, but also letting the social media platform, internet service provider, and any other necessary parties know what is going on.
And remember, technology and the internet are not the issue. It's the people who use it to harm others that are the real problem. Teaching kids how to use technology safely and responsibly will benefit them for the rest of their lives.