From Facebook to Vine to Instagram, kids are using a wide range of technology—which leaves them vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying involves unkind or untrue statements and pictures posted online or sent by cell phone, with the intent to harass, humiliate or threaten another child. It can take place on social media sites, through text messages, apps, and on websites. It’s best to try to prevent cyberbullying before it starts.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2013 report, “Nationwide, 14.8% of students had been electronically bullied, including being bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting, during the 12 months before the survey.”
The anonymity and detached nature of the Internet makes cyberbullying increasingly prevalent among high school students, but parents can help their kids avoid becoming victims of this type of intimidation.
Here are five tips to prevent cyberbullying from impacting your kids:
1. Keep Current
Stay up to date on all the newest technologies so you’ll know what your kids are using. “Kids are often early adopters of the newest social media and apps,” says K12’s Senior Manager of National Community and Family Support Team, so you will need to keep up with what they are doing online. The Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a free app that parents can use to help them start a conversation with their teen about bullying and recognize the warning signs in their kids.
2. Stay Involved
Tell your kids that you will check in on their online and cell phone communications periodically. Parental control monitoring programs may also be helpful to prevent children from both seeing unsuitable messages and from engaging in bullying behavior themselves. Follow your children on sites like Facebook and Twitter so you can monitor their interactions with others. Such monitoring may alert you to problems your child is having with bullying.
3. Set Rules
Set rules and guidelines about the use of technology. Teach them how to be safe online—such as creating strong passwords and adjusting their privacy settings on sites like Facebook. Tell them to block and not converse with anyone bullying them, if possible.
4. Be Discerning
Talk to your kids about what they are posting on social media. Anything they post may be seen by other students who are not their friends, so they must be educated on the public nature of such social sites. Also, have a discussion with them about what to do if they receive a text, post or email that falls into the bullying category. It is best not to engage with a bully. Encourage your kids to speak to you about any communication they receive that makes them uneasy or upset.
5. Teach Kindness and Empathy
K12’s Director of Guidance Counseling Services Laurel Barrette says, “children who learn to respect their peers will be less likely to engage in bullying behavior.” Remember, it’s just as important to prevent your child from engaging in bullying as it is to protect them from it.
Read more about bullying here on Learning Liftoff during National Bullying Prevention Month.
This is an updated version of an article originally published in 2011 on the K12 ThinkTank blog.