Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – Kids in Crisis: Cyberbullying
When we were younger there were kids who bullied on the playground, in the school hallways, and maybe on the bus ride home. But our kids today are facing a new kind of crisis – cyberbullying. This unfortunate new trend is like having that schoolyard bully granted access to your child 24/7, and those bullying tactics have a much longer reach than ever before. Almost 70% of teens view cyberbullying as a “serious problem” – so it’s time we as parents learn a bit more about it and how to help keep our kids safe.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can take many forms and can be done using a variety of technological devices, including cell phones, computers, tablets, and even home gaming systems with internet capability. Bullying in the digital world means that kids can use the internet to spread pain, threats, and intimidation. There are many different ways that cyberbullying can occur.
- Flaming and Harassment – Degrading remarks about another child are shared digitally for the world to see. It can range from name calling on social media to sending constant harassing text messages or posting embarrassing pictures online.
- Impersonation – The internet allows for anonymity, and some cyberbullies will create fake social media accounts or sign of for emails in the names of their victims. Then they create a digital persona that is unflattering and embarrassing, and, because the false identities are like digital thumbprints that are very hard to change. the consequences can follow the victim even to college and job interviews.
- Cyber-Stalking – Unfortunately, the same technology that lets us keep track of where our kids are and what they are doing can be used by others to stalk them. Did you know that many social media default settings identify where a person is when they make a post? If your child doesn’t change this she could be announcing to the world her location the next time she gives a status update.
- Exclusion – Cyberbullies can cause pain by digital exclusion where they work to have your child blocked, banned, or ignored from certain social groups online. It is a much larger version of social exclusion that happens when a bullying victim has to sit alone to eat lunch at school.
- Outing – Back when we were kids we passed notes in the hall and hoped the teachers or certain students didn’t get a hold of them. Imagine that the bully finds that note and shares details of it with the world? Outing online by sharing secrets or spreading rumors of half-truths is a very common cyberbullying tactic.
What Can I Do About Cyberbullying?
Most kids don’t tell their parents about the cyberbullying, especially at first, so it is up to us as parents to be diligent and take steps to safeguard our children. Cyberbullying is a real problem that is linked to higher suicide rates, substance abuse, depression, and failing academics. Almost half of all kids have been the victim of some form of cyberbullying or have witnessed it more than once. Here are some steps we can take as parents.
- Talk with our kids – They need to know that we understand cyberbullying and that it is not OK to use technology to hurt others.
- Protect with technology – Make sure your child’s social media accounts are changed from default “public” settings to “private”. Use email filtering software to look for language that is inappropriate.
- Watch for signs of crisis – If your child is agitated or anxious after using the laptop or getting text messages, find out why. Falling school grades and refusal to go to school can be others signs of cyberbullying.
- Limit technology – Don’t allow computers in the bedrooms or your child to take the cell phone or tablet to bed. Kids need to have a break from the constant pressures and influences of the digital world.
- Find resources – There are some effective resources available to parents like these that help get conversations started and provide tools for families.
- Have access – Have your child place his password to social media and email accounts in a sealed envelope you agree to use only in cases of crisis.
Cyberbullying is the new danger our kids are facing. The more we learn about these threats and ways to help them use technology safely and respectfully, the stronger and healthier our families can be.