Identifying and Stopping Cyberbullying
Bullying comes in many forms and has long been a problem for both kids and teenagers. You may have received bullying as a child, but the bullying hasn’t remained the same as it was when you were a kid. Technology has allowed bullying to evolve into a more pervasive problem, reaching people even at home on their computers.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that occurs online, and it is one of the most dangerous problems that children face online. You need to know how to identify this type of bullying and what you can do to prevent it.
As with any type of bullying, cyberbullying usually involves a stronger person preying on someone who is weaker or more vulnerable. It can be very tough to pin down and identify, since it takes place online and through electronic communications. For many parents, by the time they notice that their child is being bullied online, the damage may already be incredible.
Cyberbullying can even cause pain that is so severe that the victim commits suicide. That’s what happened to Megan Meier, a 13-year old whose tragic death placed a national spotlight on the problem. That attention only lasted for a short while, and many parents treat cyberbullying as if it is not a serious problem.
Here, we will look at the warning signs of cyberbullying and what you can do to stop it from hurting your child or others in your community.
Make Your Computer Easily Visible
Many teens have personal computers that they can take to their room or wherever they go and access the internet at any time. This can come in useful with their studies, but it also puts that at risk for unmonitored internet use and bullying. Parents are not able to effectively monitor their children and ensure that they are being kept safe. The family computer should be kept in a central location where it can be easily seen. That way, you can tell what your children are doing at all times.
By keeping the computer centralized, you will be more easily able to notice when your children are upset over something they have seen online. If you don’t notice their emotional distress, they may try to work through the problem on their own and come up with a solution that is going to harm them. Or they may keep their feelings to themselves, causing damage over time. If your children are experiencing cyberbullying in the privacy of their rooms, then you may not know about it until the damage has been done. You need to be able to recognize the signs early on in order to effectively do something about it and prevent serious bullying.
Become Part of the Social Network
If you want to understand what your kids are seeing and experiencing within their favourite social network, then you should join that network yourself. You can keep an eye on what they are doing that way. Your kids may not want to accept your friend request, though, and it may work better if you keep your distance, so to speak, on the network.
While you may have good intentions, being on a social network allows them to develop important social skills that you don’t want to hinder.
If you would like to monitor your children through a social network, we suggest not involving yourself directly in everything they do there. If you are too pervasive in their account, they may try to create a secret account that is harder to monitor.
Discuss the Internet with Your Children at an Early Age
You should talk to your children about how to recognize when they are being bullied. Tell them what is acceptable and what isn’t online and that it is not okay to lie about other people.
You also want to let them know that if someone is telling lies about them or another person online, then they need to tell someone. Many times, cyberbullying can become worse when someone is trying to defend themselves instead of reporting what happened.
Watch What Your Kids Are Doing Online
Your kids will likely answer your questions as honestly as they can, but teenagers tend to like their privacy.
That’s why it may be a good idea to use a few monitoring tools. There are many different software programs that let you see what your child is up to or limit their time online. Knowing what sites your child is visiting is not as important as knowing how they behave online. The majority of web tracking software can’t tell you what your child is actually doing.
You can use a program like Google Alerts to receive email notifications whenever your child’s name is used online. This program won’t search the Invisible Web, which is outside the purview of conventional search engines, and that may be where much of the information about your child is being stored.
You might have concerns about spying on your kids, but you shouldn’t think of it that way. Spying is usually meant to find something you can use against someone, whereas monitoring ensures that you are protecting your child by knowing what they are into. Let your kids know upfront that you will be checking what they are looking at, and that knowledge may help them to control their behaviour.
Includes Other Parents and Your Kids’ Teachers in Your Efforts
When it comes to cyberbullying, it’s not usually a problem that only affects a single child. It’s important to get in touch with the wider community to join forces and combat cyberbullying together.
Involve the School
You should involve you school district if you find evidence of bullying. If your kid believes that the bully is someone from their school, then you should let the school administration know. They can at least keep any eye on your child for signs of bullying and ensure that it doesn’t happen while school is in session.
Bullying may be occurring during school hours on school computers, and if that is the case, it will be easier to track down who is doing the bullying. The more people you can get involved in fighting this problem, the quicker you will be able to stop it.
Once you know who the bully is, you should let his or her parents know. Together, you can try to fix the problem and stop the bullying. If you aren’t sure who the child is that’s doing the bullying, though, it may not be wise to confront the parents just yet. You might want to ask for their help in determining who it is, though.
Instruct Your Children to Keep Certain Information to Themselves
Cyberbullying can often include instances where a bully takes over another person’s account. They can then prevent the victim from accessing their account and impersonate the victim. It can take a while for your child to get back access to their account, and by that time, their reputation may have been irreversibly tarnished. The bullying could even prevent them from getting a job or finding a college in the future.
You can do a few things to help your child prevent account hijacking.
Teach your kid how important it is to keep personal information from other people. This would be any info that can used to identify them, such as their name, address, phone number or date of birth.
You should also help your child create a strong password that would be impossible to guess. It’s a good idea to use a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Just be sure to make it something they can remember easily or write it down and keep it in a secure place.
Know What Your Rights Are
It is best to contact the police if the cyberbullying your child is experiencing is involving threats, pornography or severe forms of harassment. It’s not always the best course of action to involve the police, but if you think your child is in danger, then you should at least consider it. You do have legal rights pertaining to cyberbullying, and you need to be aware of them.
Cyberbullying is beginning to become more widely recognized as a serious problem. There are numerous organizations and campaigns geared toward not only making people more aware of the dangers of cyberbullying but also protecting them from it and preventing cyberbullying before it occurs.
While organizations that fight cyberbullying can be effective, you also need to work individually with your children to prevent the problem. Be sure to spend time talking to your children about the dangers of the Web and take steps to protect them against cyberbullies.