Cyberbullying is any kind of bullying that uses electronic devices. Preventing cyberbullying before it happens and stopping it immediately when it does is the best way to empower your child and prevent damage to his/her self-image and self-esteem.
Cyberbullying takes place online through social media sites, chat rooms, email, texting, and other phone apps. Cyberbullying has been around for almost as long as social media, but in recent years it has seen an increase due to more and younger children taking advantage of these types of communication tools. Cyberbullying happens within school groups, sports teams, and other student organizations. Understanding what cyberbullying looks like helps parents and other caregivers take proactive steps to prevent and deal with this ongoing problem in the lives of teenagers.
According to the Megan Meier Foundation, studies from the Urban Institutes in 2013 reported that:
- 25% of students experienced bullying on school grounds.
- 23% reported that bullying happened during the school day.
- 15% reported that they experienced at least one type of bullying (cyber, physical, and/or psychological) in school once a month.
These statistics reveal a startling trend in inappropriate and vicious communication between teenagers.
Cyberbullying typically begins in upper elementary school and tends to peak during the middle school years when adolescents are more inclined to use social media for reasons outside of basic communication between peers. Cyberbullying does decrease by 10th grade, but unfortunately does not disappear completely.
Parents need a plan when it comes to preventing and stopping cyberbullying. Use the following five tips to ensure your child is safe from these types of online attacks:
- Teach kids to take a stand against all types of bullying. Any bullying is wrong, including bullying that happens online. Letting your kids know that your home and their electronic devices are bully-free zones decreases the likelihood that they will bully others when they are not with you.
- Establish clear consequences for engaging in cyberbullying. Let your child know that if he/she is caught engaging in cyberbullying of any kind he/she will lose his/her electronic devices immediately. That includes a cell phone, computers, tablets, etc. Also let him/her know that all social media accounts will be terminated if they are abused in this way.
- Talk to your child about what cyberbullying looks like. Teens often feel like teasing or posting pictures of others without permission is OK to do on social media, since they’re just having fun. But having fun at another’s expense is always bullying and should not be tolerated.
- Talk to your child about what to do if he/she is being bullied online. This includes teasing, threatening, talking about appearance in negative or hurtful ways, or sharing private things she/he may have shared with friends.
- Let your children know that they must talk to you or another trusted adult immediately if they are the victim of cyberbullying. Adolescents often feel embarrassed about being bullied and do not want to get others into trouble. Help your child to understand that this type of behavior is not normal or innocent, and that cyberbullying can lead to a host of other serious issues if not stopped right away.
Parents can also purchase parental software that monitors and controls what children see and share on social media sites. Cell phone parental software also provides reports and controls for texting, photo sharing, internet usage, contact updates, bookmarks, and a host of other cell phone functions.
Keeping your kids safe involves more than just knowing where they are and what they are doing at all times. Monitoring their electronic use and protecting them from cyberbullying is a 24/7 job.