After what seems like a long summer recess, parents often look forward to their children returning to school. But not so for their children, if they are LGBT. For them, school means more than new back-to-school clothes, freshly stocked backpacks, and revisiting friends. It also may mean being bullied or worse, cyberbullied.
Here are tips from http://stopbullying.gov. to help parents cope with this frequent and invasive crime:
For Their Safety
• To lessen cyberbullying, talk to your kids about online issues. Emphasize that they can come to you for help. You want to gain their trust! Don’t overreact or underreact.
• Don’t blame your kids if they are victims of cyberbullying. Some kids are scared that they will have computer privileges taken away so they do not report incidents to their parents and may use the computer secretively.
• Monitor your child’s online usage. Set a time allowance for non-homework use.
• Keep the computer in a public place.
• Look at their profile page, Facebook, My Space, and Twitter accounts. Review their “buddy list.” Ask who each person is and how your kids know him or her.
• Tell your kids not to give out their passwords nor personal information online. Don’t send controversial photos that can go viral. Once received, they can’t be erased. Don’t open e-mails from people they don’t know.
Once The Invasion Has Occurred
• Don’t allow your kids to respond to the bully. They shouldn’t retaliate when angry. Tell them not to forward messages.
• Print out messages. Take screen shots. Keep records of e-mail, texts, with dates, times. You may need these for law enforcement or school.
• Report cyberbullying to the web and cell phone providers. You can see what’s appropriate usage by reviewing their terms and conditions on rights and responsibilities sections.
• Block users. Change settings to control whom can contact them. Visit social media safety centers so you can report cyberbullying to them. They can take action against users abusing terms of service.
Get Law Enforcement Involved If:
• There are threats of violence.
• Sexually explicit messages, photos or child pornography are sent.
• A photo has been taken of someone in a place such as a public restroom where he/she would expect privacy.
• If stalking or hate crimes occur.
• The National Crime Prevention Council has site maps to find out more about your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies. Just a click away!
All kids should be educated about the possibility of cyberbullying and how to combat this insidious affront. Unfortunately, kids who are “different” are prime targets of cyberbullying. Forty percent of LGBT kids report not feeling safe in their own communities.
Next week, I’ll talk about bullying in school. The strategies are different.
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.