Nov 04, 2016

Upset teen girl looking at smartphone while two mean girls stand in the background cyberbullying her

Cyberbullying is a huge problem across the U.S. with more and more kids falling victim. Bullying is no longer restricted to the classroom and playground, but now with social media on iPhones and other mobile devices, kids are at risk of being bullied online at all times of the day or night.

We as parents are constantly on the lookout for ways to protect our kids from the negative impact of cyberbullying, but often feel at a loss when our kids become victims. Luckily there are things we can do to prevent cyberbullying like utilizing internet filters, restricting internet usage, and attempting to monitor social media accounts, but it can feel overwhelming especially when cyberbullying is being perpetuated in our society.

Recent studies have shown a link between violent media and an increase in cyberbullying across the country. We’ve long heard the correlation between videogames and aggression, but now that aggression is being shown through children picking on others, not just at school or in person, but also online. According to the Health Behavior in School-Age Children survey in the U.S., 13.6% of young people have been involved in cyberbullying in some way, whether as a victim or a perpetrator.

Kids who are regularly exposed to violent media including TV, news, and violent video games, are more likely to exhibit antisocial or violent behavior themselves. This often comes from a desire to imitate what they see or an overall desensitization of violence. Since youth learn from their surroundings, being consistently exposed to violent media has a strong influence over their learned social skills. If kids view violence all around them, they tend to resort to violent behavior in order to solve problems, this includes showing aggression online. The prevalence of cyberbullying in our society is leading to actual physical violence, depression, PTSD, and suicide among kids and teens.

While it's impossible to completely eradicate the risk of bullying for your children, there are ways to help prevent it. In our society, social media is a way of life and for many families, restricting its use completely isn’t an option, but there are ways to help protect your kids from bullying and online predators. Here are a few tips to help parents prevent cyberbullying:

  • Add your kids on social media: By being Facebook friends or following your children on popular apps like Instagram and SnapChat, you can help regulate the content they are putting out in the world. Kids are less likely to put damaging or questionable images and comments online if they are worried their parents may see.
  • Use online protection tools: Net Nanny has a number of internet filters and a tool specifically geared toward keeping kids safe from online predators and cyberbullying called Net Nanny Social. This feature gives parents access to their children’s social media accounts so they can monitor conversations and interactions with other kids and make sure bullying or inappropriate behavior is not taking place.
  • Keep the computer in a communal space: iPhones and mobile devices make monitoring internet usage more difficult, but parents can help curb cyberbullying but keeping computers in a family space, rather than a bedroom. This makes it easier for parents to monitor online activity and kids are less likely to engage in dangerous online behavior while in the same room as their family members.
  • Encourage open communication: Talk to your child about cyberbullying and online safety. Let them know that as soon as they feel they are being bullied or a person they know is the victim or bully, they can talk to you. The best way to avoid increased cyberbullying is by not engaging with the bully. If your child is being bullied online, keep communication open so they feel comfortable telling you and you can then step in to block the bully or guide your child on how to handle the situation.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue in our society and one that is increasing with violent media. The good news is there are tools designed to help parents protect their kids from this kind of abuse. Using internet filters, protection software, and educating ourselves on different forms of online communication, we can work to prevent our kids from becoming victims or engaging in bullying activity. It’s also important to encourage our kids to have healthy alternative hobbies to ingesting violent media. The more time kids spend playing with friends, interacting with family, and disconnecting from social media, the more likely they are to avoid engaging in cyberbullying.

Carli Leavitt

Carli Leavitt is a public relations specialist and avid blogger who is passionate about the safety of children in the digital age. Follow her on Twitter @CarliLeavitt