Preventing cyberbullying starts by having a conversation with your child to set ground rules, expectations and consequences. This will help minimize the chances that your child will harass someone or be a victim of cyberbullying. Studies have shown that being up front typically ends up being more productive than to spy clandestinely.
Help them be smart about what they post or say. Remind them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted, it is out of their control on whether someone else will forward it and, it can last forever.
The information and photos they post online or in a text can be picked up by others, and can be used destructively. Make sure they understand that they should never share any pictures of private parts as this can be considered pornography. Here are some tips on how to protect your child from cyberbullying and other predators.
Tips for Cell Phones:
- All smart phones have privacy settings that can be changed to protect your child. If you’re unsure how to use these settings, search the internet for procedures or YouTube for videos with step-by-step guidelines.
- Getting a cell phone needs to be with the understanding that the cell phone belongs to you, the parent, and that you can access the phone and its contents whenever you chose. Your child’s cell phone is not a diary.
- Check your child’s cell phone often to make sure their social media privacy and security settings are on the safety mode and that the texts and photos that are coming in and going out are appropriate.
- You can set up your phone so that you can view all of your child’s texts, even the deleted ones, from your phone. You are not being nosy, you are keeping them safe.
- Utilize the Find My Phone app on your phone so that you can always locate your child’s phone, and your child, if needed.
- Don’t be afraid to say no to a phone. Most carriers still offer the free small or flip type versions that allows you and your child to get in touch with each other, call their friends, or when needed for an emergency – without the capability of texting or accessing social media sites.
Tips for Social Media:
- Most social media outlets don’t allow children under the age of 13 to have an account. YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but a 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission. Maturity level needs to be considered before allowing your child to have an account.
- Check your child’s social media account often. Know who they are following and who is following them. You need to follow them on all sites.
- Some social media sites are unnecessary. Snapchat lets you send photos which appear then disappear within a few seconds, so any type of photo could be sent. The issue is, when a person gets the photo, they can easily take a screen shot of that photo before it disappears and it can still live forever. YikYak is an “anonymous” uncensored texting service that lets anyone post just about anything.
Tips for Online:
- Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities.
- If you think there’s a reason for concern, install parental control filtering software or monitor programs for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
- Having their passwords is another safety measure. These passwords are not to be shared with any of their friends. Sharing passwords can compromise the child’s control over their online identities and activities; it is a common practice for bullies to change someone’s information online.
- Be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online.
Tips if your child has been a victim of cyberbullying
- Tell your child not respond to cyberbullying messages and not to forward or share the messages with any of their friends.
- Block the bully on social media and eliminate or block the bully’s e-mail address. (Visit social media safety centers to learn how to block users.)
- Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails and text messages. Use this evidence to report cyberbullying to cell phone service providers, social media sites or schools.
- If the bullying persists, change the child’s passwords, cell phone number, or cancel social media accounts.
Talking about cyberbullying is important in understanding how the issue might be affecting your child. Reassure your child that they are not alone and immediately address any problems as they arise. Don’t think they can or should handle it on their own.
Cyberbullying is a serious matter with more than 50 percent of teenagers reporting that they have been cyberbullied. Don’t be afraid to take the necessary steps to keep your child safe.