This likely isn’t a new word to you, unfortunately. Your kids probably like to play on the computer and depending on their age may have their own cell phone or facebook account. While these avenues for connecting with others can be loads of fun, they can also be a gateway for a harsher and more intense type of bullying.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place electronically. Some examples of cyberbullying are mean text messages, voicemails, prank calls, posting rumors or negative information about a person online, the posting of embarrassing photos or videos, and the creation of fake profiles.
Cyberbullying can be more devastating to deal with than traditional bullying because it can happen 24/7 and can be transmitted to many, many people very quickly. (Think a facebook post about your 12 year old getting her period shared with the whole school.) In addition, kids that get cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well.
So what can you do as a parent to protect your child from this type of bullying?
#1. Know what your child is doing electronically. Have regular chats about cyberbullying and other online issues. Have a sense of what your child does online and who she texts. Have your child share her passwords with you and “follow” your child on social media or ask a trusted adult friend to do so. Ask that your child tell you immediately if anything occurs electronically that makes her uncomfortable.
#2. Keep communication with your child open. Having daily check-ins with your child about how life is going will help your child feel more comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences with you. If your child tells you about a cyberbullying situation, don’t threaten to take away her phone or the computer as that will ensure that you won’t be informed about situations in the future.
#3. Set technology rules. Be clear about what internet sites your child can visit and what she is allowed to do online and with their phone (no obscure online chat rooms, no texting in the middle of the night, etc.). Utilize parent safety software to assist with this, but do not rely on it solely. Help your child be smart about what she puts online (examples: no personal information such as address and telephone numbers, photos that are appropriate and only to be shared with people she knows, no making plans to meet with someone she doesn’t know). Tell your child to keep her passwords safe from everyone but you. Friendships can change very fast and your child’s electronic passwords can hold the key to her online identity.
#4. Be aware of school rules. Many schools have established rules about how the internet is used and when cell phones are permitted.
#5. Report any electronic harassment to school personnel immediately. Often schools cannot do much to prevent or control cyberbullying as it is often done outside of school hours. However, it is beneficial for school personnel to know if your child is being harassed by another child. This knowledge helps staff to watch the interactions amongst the children in the school setting to try to curb any face to face situations.
#6. Know when enough is enough. If your child is having constant issues with another child or another friendship group, it may be best to terminate your child’s electronic identify for a while. Use this as a last resort as it can be devastating in itself for your child to be disconnected from her electronic world. Nevertheless, taking your child out of the path of electronic destruction can curb some of the conflict and help your child re-focus on friendships and experiences that are REAL and important.
Jessica Martin, Ed.S., NCSP
RVA School Psychologist/Director of Special Education & Student Services
Some of this information was taken from stopbullying.gov. Visit this site for more information on the topic.