Aug 02, 2016
Gone are the days of prank calls and exclusion from the lunch table; with the aid of technology, kids today contend with being bullied anytime and anywhere. Vigilant and informed parents are better prepared, so we’re sharing proven ways to stop cyberbullying, should your child ever become a target.
If you want to know how to prevent cyberbullying, arm yourself with information; learn about the social media platforms your child is using and educate yourself about the different forms of cyberbullying. In short, cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass another person. Prevalent among children and young adults, electronic bullying can take many forms. The End to Cyberbullying Organization details five different types of cyberbullying: harassment, flaming, exclusion, outing and masquerading.
Harassment is pretty self-explanatory, and can take many forms - private messages, texts and emails - mean, malicious and harmful in intent. Flaming is much like harassment, but is done in a public forum, such as an online group, chat room or mass email. Exclusion is the online version of being kicked from the lunch table, and involves leaving a targeted child out of a messaging or group forum, and subsequently harassing them through messages and texts.
You’re already familiar with the ‘outing’ form of cyberbullying, as it happens frequently with celebrities. Outing involves the release of personal information, and often private photos, of a targeted person, and distributing online. If you’ve seen the film Catfish, or watched the MTV series, you know that masquerading is probably one of the most harmful and personal types of cyberbullying. When someone bullies another through masquerading, they create a fake profile or identity with the sole purpose of harassment; masqueraders often create a false profile, assuming the identity of the target of their bullying, and post inflammatory or harassing comments, posing as their victim. It’s scary, isn’t it? Let’s talk about how you, as a parent, can discover ways to prevent cyberbullying.
Not only do you need to communicate your electronic and online expectations with your child, but you also need to check in with them on a regular basis. Engage your child in conversations about her time online. Check out the Book "Talk, Not Interrogate" for more help. Remember, the more comfortable she feels coming to you when a threatening or uncomfortable online situation arises, the better. And if she does tell you that she’s being cyberbullied, don’t overreact (that’s a surefire way for her to build a wall between you in the future). Calmly discuss the situation, saving all related evidence, and proceed from there.
Keep Computers in Common Areas
If your children don’t have smartphones, the best way to stay abreast of your child’s online activity is to set up your computer in a common area. Without overtly spying, you are able to check in on your child while he is online, and are also able to look for signs that your child may be involved in cyberbullying.
Be a Friend
No, I’m not saying you should be your child’s friend, but you should definitely be a “friend” or “follow” your child on social media. Without actively logging into your child’s social media accounts, you can monitor activity and watch who your child is friends with. More importantly, you can ensure that your child is keeping her account private and that her profiles do not give out identifying information. Obviously you won’t know if you child is being sent malicious messages privately, but you can see how people are interacting with your child on the platform.
If your children are younger, use the acronym STOP to remind your child what to do if they become the victim of a cyberbully: Stop using the computer, Tell an adult about the incident, get the Ok to go back online after a period of time away, and Play with children not involved in the bullying.
Parent to Parent
If your child becomes the victim of cyberbullying, block the bully and save everything as evidence; take screen shots, print out text or IM conversations. Your next step is to contact the bully’s parent and set up a time to talk. Not only does the child’s parent need to know about the behavior, involving the parent can immediately stop cyberbullying. If speaking with the parent is not effective, do not hesitate to contact your school (if the bully attends the same school as your child); most schools have a no-tolerance policy with cyberbullying.
When it comes to our children’s online activity, too much information is never a bad thing. With new social media platforms popping up frequently, the best way to keep your child safe is to learn about the platforms in which your child is participating. What are some of your suggestions for ways to prevent cyberbullying?
Lauren B. Stevens
Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer and influential blogger. She is passionate about social media and literature.