Cyberbullying, or bullying via technology and/or the internet, has become the newest way to make fun of, ridicule, and victimize others. In a 2010 study of 12 to 18 year olds, researchers found that 83% of teens use a cell phone, 78% send text messages, 50% use Facebook, 38% use Myspace, 46% email, and 41% instant message. With this wide variety of technology being used by today’s youth, it’s no wonder that bullying has found its way from the playground to cell phones and computers.
It’s no secret that physical bullying is more common among boys, while relational bullying (bullying with words) is more common among girls. Given this fact, it might not be surprising to you that cyberbullying is most common among girls, although it happens to both girls and boys. Over 20% of teens report having experienced cyberbullying. The most common forms are hurtful comments, rumors, or threats online. Other forms include text messages, pictures, videos, or websites created about the victim. If not dealt with and solved, cyberbullying can have serious negative consequences for children. As a parent, it’s important to know how to handle such a situation.
To help your child stay safe from cyberbullying, here are some helpful tips:
• Keep your home computer in a location where it can be easily viewed. If your children know that you can see what they’re doing, they are more likely to use the computer for appropriate behaviors only.
• Become familiar with social networking and communication technologies. If your child tells you that he’s doing homework, but he’s actually instant messaging, would you know the difference? In order to keep your children safe, you have to know a little about these technologies: know what they look like, know what they’re used for, and know the lingo.
• Talk with your children about cyberbullying. Encourage your kids to come to you if anyone says or does anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Consider installing filters or blockers to keep your child from visiting dangerous chat rooms or from using the Internet in other harmful ways.
• Set guidelines for cell phone use, then enforce and monitor these expectations.
• Set guidelines for computer and internet use, along with specific consequences if these guidelines are not met.
• Have a plan of how you will handle the situation if your child is being cyberbullied. Stay calm and take steps toward finding a solution.
• Inform school administrators right away. Inquire about bullying preemption programs.
• Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Save the messages, pictures, or videos.
• Spend time with your child to let him/her know how much you love and support him/her.