From Snapchat streaks and Instagram likes to TikTok dances and the For You page, social media has infiltrated our lives and found ways to keep us hooked. And kids are no exception. As they try to keep up with what’s popular and connect with friends through technology, they become vulnerable to cyberbullying—a specific form of bullying which takes place over digital devices such as cell phones and computers.
According to StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying can happen through text, social media, forums, or gaming—anywhere where people can send, post, or share content about someone else that is harmful, whether that means it’s not true or cruel. It can also come in the form of purposeful embarrassment or humiliation by sharing personal or private information about someone.
According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 15.9% of high school students reported being victims of electronic bullying during the 12 months before the survey—a percentage that has remained steady since 2011.
The anonymity and, at times, secretive nature of communicating through our phones or the Internet all add to cyberbullying being a constant issue among high school students. You may wonder what you can do to prevent your child from becoming a victim of this type of behavior, so we’ve compiled a few ways to prevent cyberbullying:
- Stay current: Kids are often the quickest adopters of new social media and apps. They want to use what’s popular, so pay attention to what’s trending and how people are sharing content and communicating.
- Get involved: Tell your kids that you will check in on their cell phone and online communications, and then make sure you follow through consistently. You can download a parental app that allows you to easily monitor your kid’s online activity and help keep them safe from bullying activity. If they have social media, you should, too—and make sure you follow their accounts.
- Establish rules: Set guidelines for their technology use and teach them how to be safe online. Look at their privacy settings to ensure their accounts are protected and see who can view their content or message them. Tell them if anyone bullies them, to document and report it, then block the bully.
- Be discerning: Everything that’s posted online can be screenshotted, saved, and shared on an endless number of devices, and kids need to understand that their digital communication can come with consequences. Talk to your kids about being cautious of what they post online and what they send through text and encourage them to speak to you about any communication that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Teach kindness and compassion: Not only should we protect our kids from being victims of cyberbullying, but we must also help prevent them from becoming bullies. Talk to your kids about the importance of being compassionate toward others and encourage them when you witness acts of intentional kindness.
Many of us parents did not grow up with social media or text messaging, and it can be challenging to truly understand what it’s like to go through high school in the digital age and know how you can prevent cyberbullying from happening to your kids. The most important thing is to talk to your kids about cyberbullying and being safe online. Keep this an open conversation so that they can feel comfortable coming to you about any online or cell phone activity that makes them uneasy, and together, you can help protect them from cyberbullying.