While the internet has brought countless benefits and opportunities for learning, communication, and entertainment, it also presents new challenges for parents looking to protect their children from harm. One of these challenges is cyberbullying – a prevalent and harmful form of bullying that takes place online. About 37% of young people between 12 and 17 say they’ve been bullied online. Read on to learn how you can prevent cyberbullying in your children.
What is Cyberbullying?
Before we can work to prevent cyberbullying, you must have a comprehensive understanding of cyberbullying. By definition, cyberbullying refers to using digital devices, such as smartphones, computers, and tablets, to harass, intimidate, or threaten others. However, the actual actions of cyberbullying can take many forms.
Some of the most common types of cyberbullying include:
- Harassment: This involves repeatedly sending offensive or threatening messages to a person privately or publicly.
- Impersonation: Creating fake profiles or accounts to impersonate someone else, often to spread rumors or damage their reputation.
- Exclusion: Deliberately excluding someone from online groups or activities, making them feel isolated and rejected.
- Cyberstalking: Repeatedly monitoring and tracking someone’s online activity to gather information about them and potentially use it against them.
- Doxing: Sharing someone’s personal information, such as their address, phone number, or private photos, without their consent.
- Trolling: Intentionally posting inflammatory or controversial content to provoke others into emotional reactions.
Where Does Cyberbullying Occur?
So, where does the stalking/harassing/doxing tend to take place? Digital devices and platforms:
- Social Media: Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are common places for cyberbullying to occur, as they allow users to interact with each other and share content easily.
- Instant Messaging and Texting: Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, and iMessage can be used to send hurtful or threatening messages directly to the victim.
- Online Games and Chat Servers: Multiplayer games with chat features can facilitate cyberbullying by allowing players to harass or exclude others during gameplay.
- Email: Sending malicious or intimidating emails is a form of cyberbullying.
- Websites and Blogs: Creating websites or blogs dedicated to humiliating or spreading rumors about someone.
How to Know If Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied
No parent wants to think that their child may be a victim of cyberbullying. Still, you need to know how to recognize the signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying so that you can offer support and take appropriate action.
Some common signs include:
- Changes in Mood or Behavior: Sudden mood swings, irritability, withdrawal from social activities, or loss of interest in hobbies may indicate that your child is being cyberbullied.
- Difficulties with School: A decline in academic performance, increased absences, or reluctance to attend school can also be warning signs.
- Physical Symptoms: Complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or sleep disturbances may indicate cyberbullying-related stress.
- Secretive Behavior: If your child becomes overly secretive about their online activities or starts hiding their devices, they may be trying to conceal cyberbullying incidents.
- Increased Time Spent Online: Spending excessive amounts of time online, especially during unsociable hours, could indicate that your child is involved in harmful online interactions.
If you suspect your child is a cybersecurity victim, don’t wait to get involved. Recognize the signs of distress and provide emotional support to your child. You may want to seek professional help through the authorities or counseling services if necessary.
7 Ways To Keep Your Child Safe From Cyberbullying
With the above in mind, here are seven ways to protect your child from cyberbullying:
Educate Your Child on Cyberbullying
The first step in preventing your child from becoming a victim of cyberbullying is to make sure that they understand what the words and actions mean. Teach your child about cyberbullying, its consequences, and how to recognize its many forms. Encourage open communication, so they feel comfortable discussing any issues they may face online.
Set Clear Rules for Digital Behaviors
Establish clear rules regarding online behavior and device usage. Make sure your child knows what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to interacting with others online. At the same time, encourage your kids to engage in offline activities and socialize with friends and family in person and online. By creating a balanced approach to technology use, you can help your child develop healthy habits and reduce their risk of becoming involved in cyberbullying situations.
Monitor Their Online Activity
We’re not saying you should go completely 1984 on them, but you should make it a habit of watching your child’s online activities, including the websites they visit and the people they interact with. Use parental controls to block inappropriate content and limit their exposure to potential risks.
Encourage The Responsible Use of Social Media
For most families, banning your child entirely from social media isn’t going to prove effective. Instead, teach your child about the importance of privacy settings on social media platforms and how to use them effectively. You can also provide examples and guidelines for what they post and what they should never share online (personal information, etc.).
Be a Good Digital Role Model
Sometimes the best cyberbullying prevention is setting a positive example for your child by demonstrating responsible online behavior. This includes:
- Not sharing personal information.
- Being respectful of others.
- Maintaining a healthy balance between online and offline activities.
Build a Support Network
A strong support network, both online and offline, can provide your child with parent-alternative people to talk through any cyberbullying issues. Encourage your child to connect with trusted friends, teachers, or mentors who can offer guidance and support when needed. By fostering a sense of belonging and community, your child will feel more comfortable discussing their experiences and seeking help in challenging situations.
Empower Your Child To Take Action Against Cyberbullying
A critical step in preventing cyberbullying victimhood is to empower your child with strategies to cope with and respond to online harassment effectively. Teach them not to engage with bullies or retaliate, as doing so may worsen the bullying.
Instead, teach them to block or mute the perpetrator and save any evidence of the bullying, such as screenshots or messages, to report the incident. By equipping your child with the tools and knowledge to act against cyberbullying, you can help them regain control and confidence in their online experiences.
By taking these steps, you can create a safer online environment for your child and protect them from the harmful effects of cyberbullying. Remember, communication and education are key – the more we talk about this issue and educate ourselves and our children, the better equipped we will be to tackle it head-on.