Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying
by: Meline Kevorkian, EdD
Technology is a wonderful tool for communicating and information sharing, but like all tools children learn to use, parents must provide supervision and set limits to ensure their children have a safe and rewarding experience. Cyberbullying is a relatively new danger, and one that can have lasting consequences. Here are some tips for internet safety and preventing cyberbullying.
Know your technology. If you allow your children to carry cell phones, have a MySpace or Facebook page, or work with other technology, learn how to use them yourself. Your children can be your teachers in showing you what they are doing online. Take an interest in your children’s online world just as you would any other aspect of their lives.
Set reasonable limits. Help your children learn to make responsible decisions about using technology by establishing guidelines and exerting control when necessary. Investigate all the features of the technology they use. Cell phones with internet access should have the same guidelines and safety measures as those for household computers. Obtain information on parental controls for all the technology your children use.
Get to know your children’s online friends. Making “friends” online is fast and easy, but you must help your children learn the difference between a real friend and a friendly stranger. Monitor their virtual friendships with questions you would ask about their friends in the physical world. Urge your children never to disclose any information that would reveal who they are, where they live, or where they go to school. Instruct them never to arrange to meet online-only friends in person.
Talk with your kids if you suspect they are being bullied. Changes in your child’s behavior and attitudes can signal that they are being bullied at school or online. Victimized children are more likely to have difficulty sleeping, headaches, nervousness, stomach aches, and make excuses to avoid going to school. Kids are usually reluctant to tell anyone about problems with their peers, and fear losing internet privileges if they report being cyberbullied. You must ensure they feel confident that they can tell you anything and that you will help them. We must teach our children that no one has the right to hurt another person.
Help kids understand the difference between tattling and reporting. We must help children speak up when they are being victimized or witness someone else being victimized. There is a difference between tattling and reporting. Tattling is when you tell something to get someone in trouble. Reporting is getting someone help to keep them safe.
Show your children you love them and will protect them. Children who are bullied are at risk for a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, diminished self-esteem, and social withdrawal. Remind your children that they are lovable and valuable, and that it is bullies who are the ones with the personality problem.
Get involved with bullying prevention efforts in your school or district. Review your school’s policies and rules against bullying, including cyberbullying. Promote parent education to provide information and training for parents on how to recognize and prevent cyberbullying.
Meline Kevorkian, EdD is the executive director of academic review at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida, and a board member of the International Bullying Prevention Association. She is the author of 101 Facts about Bullying: What Everyone Should Know and Preventing Bullying: Helping Kids Form Positive Relationships, available here.