Technology in our lives can be great, a truly simplifying force. So many onerous tasks are dispatched now with a flick of a smartphone, a simple text, or a social media update to a loved one.
Unfortunately, those same online tools also provide new ways for bullies to reach their targets—at all hours and in front of much larger audiences. As a result, kids are more vulnerable than they were just a few years ago.
Fortunately, you can help protect your child and stop cyberbullying. Here, we offer some background and steps you can take to protect your children and to teach them how to participate online safely.
How It Happens
With technology at their fingertips, some kids take bullying to the next level through social networks or cellphones. Veiled by anonymity, these cyberbullies send threatening emails and instant messages, trick kids into revealing personal information, impersonate their victims or trusted friends, or use websites to ridicule other children.
How It Hurts
Similar to in-person bullying, cyberbullying may cause a decrease in self-esteem, trouble with grades and even trigger depression. Because those on the receiving end of this type of bullying are generally at home when the damage occurs, it can be especially stressful. Plus, cyberbullies tend to be harsher than they might be in public places, since they feel anonymous and can reach a large audience in just a few keystrokes. This just raises the importance of the need to stop cyberbullying before it gets out of hand.
How You Can Help
- Teach your child boundaries online. Ensure that they keep passwords secret, never respond to threatening emails, and refrain from sharing personal information.
- Encourage your kids to treat others with respect. Teach them the importance of not putting angry or unkind words in writing.
- Establish email, chat and social media accounts with your children. Know their screen names and passwords and verify that you recognize all of their “buddies” and “friends.”
- Talk with your kids about cyberbullying. Make sure that they’ll reach out to you if and when they need help.
- Report cyberbullying to the authorities. Do whatever you can to stop the cyberbullying. Incidences of cyberbullying have led to suicide, so schools and police departments are taking the threats very seriously. If you witness cruel behavior toward your child or others, inform the school principal and take it to the police if you don’t get results.