Did you know that kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
• Abuse alcohol and drugs
• Experience in-person bullying
• Drop out of school
• Receive poor or failing grades
• Have lower self-esteem
• Have more health and mental health problems
• Display anger, frustration, and a variety of other emotional and psychological problems
• Begin to cut themselves
• Commit suicide
• 70% of students say they see frequent bullying online.
• 81% of youth think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person. (no face-to-face contact, wider audience for revenge, more invasive and around-the-clock harassment possible) in the virtual world.
• Approximately 10 to 20 percent of youths experience cyberbullying regularly, particularly overweight and LGBT kids!
It’s Abuse, 24/7.
With a loooong vacation, or so it seems for parents, kids will be tethered even more so to their cell phones and laptops. Without the structure of school and daily homework, your children will have more free time to text and receive them from bullies. To monitor cyberbullying at any time, teach your kids to:
• Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
• Tell their friends to stop cyberbullying.
• Block communication with cyberbullies; delete messages without reading them.
• Never post or share their or their friends’ personal information online.
• Never share their Internet passwords with anyone, but you.
• Not put anything online that they wouldn’t want their classmates to see, even in email.
• Not send messages when they’re angry or upset.
• Remind your child that she should not send any message or photo that she would regret having copied and dispersed widely.
Source: National Crime Prevention Council
How You Can Monitor Your Child’s Technology Use
• Keep the computer in a well-traveled area of the house so you can supervise.
• Limit data access to your child’s smart phone if he or she uses it to surf the web. Some wireless providers allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours.
• You can set up filters on your child’s computer with tracking software. This blocks inappropriate web content.
• Know your child’s passwords and learn common acronyms kids use online and in text messages.
• Who is on your child’s “buddy list” and address book? Find out.
• Encourage your child to tell you or another trusted adult if they are cyberbullied and reassure them that this does not constitute tattletelling or loss of computer or cell phone privileges.
Sexting On the Rise: What Parents Can Do
While you are discussing cyberbullying with your kids, include a discussion on sexting (sending text messages with sexual content and images). It can be a type of child exploitation. In some states, minors who take sexually suggestive photographs of themselves and send them to others can be criminally charged with distribution of child pornography! Your minor could be registered as a sex offender. In July 2012, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reported that nearly 30% of teens say they sent nude photos of themselves via text or E-mail!
• Discuss the social and legal consequences of sexting. Sharing too much information on the internet can potentially damage your child’s future or ruin their reputation.
• Teach your child that just because a photo is deleted on their mobile phone or social networking site, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t archived elsewhere.
• You can establish a phone curfew or have your service provider disable some functions such as the camera or picture messaging.
• Services such as My Mobile Watch Dog or Phone Sheriff can monitor your child’s cell phone use.
What Does A Parent Do If Child is Cyberbullied
• Don’t reply to cyberbullying. However, you should save the harassing messages and/or sexually explicit pictures and report them to the police.
• Report incidents to the ISP, the cell phone company, and to any web site used in the cyberbullying.
• Change your child’s email address or phone number. Block the cyberbully’s e-mail address or cell phone number.
• You could contact the offender’s parents if you know the bully or notify your child’s school. Many schools have established protocols for handling cyberbullying.
Vacation + No School = Ideal Environment For Bullying
Whether your child is on vacation or in school, be sure to monitor their internet usage. However, with holidays, be extra vigilant!
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.