Guest post from Hilary Smith:
You’ve heard about it on the news, but is it happening to your teens? Cyberbullying is much more common than you may think. In fact, 87% of minors have experienced cyberbullying before, but almost one-fourth of kids surveyed don’t know what to do when faced with online harassment.
When kids are exposed to this cruel treatment, it affects them more than they may let on, with 83% of cyber bullying victims saying their self esteem suffered after being harassed. Even more alarming? Thirty percent of victims admit to turning to self-harming behaviors after being cyberbullied.
Although you can sometimes feel helpless when it comes to protecting your kids online, there are steps that every parent can take to help prevent cyberbullying, or at least the negative effects of it.
1) Talk to kids about appropriate responses.
Discuss how to respond to cyberbullying if it is ever directed towards your kids. Make sure that your kids know engaging in a conversation with a bully online will not make the problem go away, and in fact, could cause it to escalate. Teach kids to not respond to any offensive or harassing message sent and instead, print out the messages and show them to an adult, whether it is a parent, teacher or guidance counselor.
2) Keep the computer in a common area.
Some teens may be hesitant to tell parents that they are being cyberbullied if they’re embarrassed or feel that they’ve done something to deserve it. To keep tabs on whether cyberbullying is happening to your kids, keep the computer in a common area of your home. That way, kids will not be able to hide problems that they may face online.
3) Show compassion.
Parents might be tempted to use the “sticks and stones” excuse, advising kids to not let verbal attacks bother them, however it’s important to put these feelings aside and show compassion. Remember, kids have committed suicide after being cyberbullied, so the sad or insecure feelings can obviously be very intense in some victims. Make sure that they know you respect their feelings, otherwise, they may be unwilling to come to you with other problems in the future.
4) Talk to the school.
If your kids inform you that cyberbullying is happening either to them or people that they know, make an appointment with the guidance counselor at your kids’ school. Discuss what is being done to educate kids about the dangers of cyberbullying and legal consequences. If nothing is in place, volunteer to help set up a program with other parents that can help teach kids why cyberbullying is never appropriate.
5) Don’t overreact.
It may be a natural instinct to threaten to take away your kids’ computer if they tell you that they have been a victim of cyberbullying. After all, without a computer, cyberbullying can’t happen anymore. This plan will backfire when kids feel that they are being punished for being a victim of a crime that they had no control over. Remember, it’s not the computer that caused this problem, it’s the bullies.
Together, parents and kids can help put an end to cyberbullying once and for all!
Hilary Smith has writing in her blood and telecommunications on her brain. This yoga enthusiast appreciates a daily workout and loves keeping time with her English bulldog, Chauncey. A journalist by day and avid sports fan by night, Hillary keeps abreast of the latest tech gadgets as she focuses in on the field of telecommunications.