Contribution from Jenny Holt, a freelance writer for several health magazines.
Gone are the days of a single school bully extorting lunch money in the schoolyard. Bullying is no longer confined to school or even physical interactions. Kids have constant access to technology, which has also become a new playground for bullies.
In a survey done by i-SAFE America, 42 percent of children report having been bullied online, and 58 percent have received mean or hurtful comments online. Even more startling, 53 percent of children admit to having said something mean or hurtful to someone else online.
Most parents are unaware of what their children do online. Children surveyed in fifth grade reported that if their parents knew about all their online activities, they would express concern (49%), restrict their Internet use (24%), or take away their computer (12%).
While it might be tempting to try and shield your children from the online world, this simply isn’t possible anymore. This doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There is plenty you as a parent can do to help your children stay safe online.
These are three steps to help your child avoid becoming a cyber bully or a cyber victim:
1.) Teach Your Children about Privacy
It’s dangerous to share too much information online, but to children, the Internet can feel like a secret hangout spot. Teach them that no matter how comfortable they feel online, the Internet is a public space. Even “secure” sites or communities can be hacked.
Don’t overlook smartphones. Make sure that your child knows even photos on their phone are not completely private. Nowadays photos are automatically uploaded to an online cloud, where someone could access it.
2.) Teach Your Children about Character
Fortunately, in teaching your child to have a good character, you are also helping them learn proper etiquette online. Be sure to mention examples of online interactions in your conversations.
One of the biggest reasons for the increase of cyberbullying is the perceived anonymity of the Internet. People forget that behind the screen, there is a real person. Make it clear to your children that lessons like “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” also apply to online interactions.
3.) Teach Your Children to Think Critically
In teaching your children to safe online, the best approach is to help them think critically for themselves. Online friends might not be who they say they are. When your children post content online, encourage them to think about the repercussions. Who do they want to see this photo? Is it okay for complete strangers to view? Could someone use this photo in a negative way?
Cyberbullying is a new, frightening phenomenon, but there are many ways to combat it. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to help your child understand the dangers and repercussions of bad behavior online.