Cyberbullying presents a tough challenge for parents and kids alike. Young people spend a lot of time on social media sites and various chat apps, both of which offer common ground for cyberbullies. Unlike physical bullying, it’s difficult for parents to identify when their child might be a victim, especially since there are few if any, physical signs. And kids are likely to hide evidence of bullying from their families.
Below are just a few ways to prevent cyberbullying. Knowledge is power, so please leave any suggestions and recommendations in the comments that might help other parents with this difficult topic!
Learn to Spot the Warning Signs
Combatting cyberbullying, as so many things in life do, begins and ends with education. That education, of course, starts with adults. Parents, guardians, and teachers should know how to spot cyberbullying. Here are few indicators to look for:
- Appears nervous when receiving messages
- Reluctant to discuss online activity
- Afraid to join other kids in activities
- Quickly exits web pages or apps when adults are nearby
- Displays anger or depression after using a computer or smart device
These signs won’t always indicate cyberbullying, but they do indicate that a child might need help with anxiety or depression. Offering support with an open mind will help children feel more comfortable discussing uncomfortable topics. And if you know what to look for, you increase the chances of reaching the young person in your life before too much harm is done.
Educate Kids on the Dangers of Cyberbullying
As kids grow up, they will get better at hiding things from their parents, including bullying. So it’s imperative to stress, at an early age, what cyberbullying is and the dangers associated with it. If your kids understand the emotional downside, not only are they unlikely to become bullies themselves, they will be much more inclined to speak up if they experience bullying firsthand, or if they witness it happening to someone else.
Regarding that last point, kids need to feel comfortable playing the tattletale role when it’s necessary, even if that means violating the trust of a friend. Keep in mind that victims of bullying are often too ashamed or afraid to speak up. By raising brave, alert, and intelligent digital citizens who understand what’s at stake, you build a bridge of trust that could help everyone in your life handle this unfortunate downside of living in a connected world.
Know Which Apps and Websites Your Kids Access
Striking a balance between respecting your kids’ privacy and keeping tabs on their online presence is one of the most difficult tasks for parents, especially since that dynamic changes as kids age. One of the best ways to achieve this balance is by creating a policy long before your kids earn the right to own a device or even so much as have an online presence. If you make your intentions clear up front, that it’s all about security, then they won’t question why you require permission for downloading apps or setting up online accounts. Over time, you effectively create a household built on trust and respect.
There are also several parental control apps that monitor social media activity, track browsing habits, filter websites, and many other customizable settings designed to keep your digital household safe. Feel no shame in utilizing these tools even if you want to foster transparency in your household.
Be Prepared to have the Other Discussion
No parent or guardian ever wants to believe that their kid is the bully. Coming to that realization requires an honest, self-aware view of life. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen, and it can happen to you.
Just like spotting the signs of a victim, it’s also important to identify signs of an attacker—a difficult task, to be sure. Parental control apps help with this. You can also watch for similar characteristics found in typical classroom bullies, such as showing a lack of empathy or getting in trouble at school. But maintaining an open mind and open flow of communication with the families in your life offer the best options.
For example, how would you handle it if someone from your school or church or neighborhood claimed that, according to their kid, your kid routinely makes hurtful comments on social media? Understandably, you might feel denial and disbelief, but what you do with those emotions could be the difference in preventing and promoting cyberbullying. Being prepared to have these conversations with the adults in your life, and then the kids in your life, is a fundamental step in combating every type of bullying.
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