Cyberbullying in the 21st Century: 7 Tips on How Parents Can Protect Their Children
A 2017 survey conducted by the Plan International, UK, a children's charity organization, revealed that at least half of all the teenagers living in the UK had been victims of cyberbullying.
The internet does have its perks, and kids can benefit a lot from using the internet, but unfortunately, it has opened up a gateway for children and young teenagers to be harassed and bullied while using the various social media platforms.
Cyberbullying is a severe menace that can no longer be ignored. Many teenagers have been led to commit suicide or in milder cases, experience some form of psychological trauma that they have to carry for the rest of their lives due to their bullying experiences.
Solving the problem goes beyond just getting your child off select websites; parents must have a deeper understanding of the problem and recognize some of the effective measures to deploy to protect their children from cyberbullying, and get them the help they need if they've been victims.
Cybersecurity experts have recommended a few guidelines on how parents can protect their children from cyberbullying:
Monitor Their Online Photo Usage
One of the most common tools that cyber-bullies use is photos. Cyberbullies take photos that kids post online, and then edit them with intent to embarrass the victim.
They could turn a completely innocent photo into a nude photo and tag the victim a 'slut' or call them other unsavory names.
It's essential to keenly monitor the way your child uses photos online, especially photos taken with their cellphones. It's best to disable your child's cell phones from being able to post images online – you can do this can be done by talking to the cellphone service provider.
However, if photos must be posted online, they must be approved by you, and they must be decent photos.
Educate Your Kids About Cyberbullying
It's best to take proactive steps by preparing your child's mind ahead even if they've never been cyberbullied.
Many children who committed suicide over cyberbullying rarely had any discussions with their parents about it. Some of the parents were oblivious of their child's cyberbullying experience.
It's important to give your children a pep talk about cyberbullying – let them know that though these things happen, it doesn't define who they are, and it's just a few 'troubled kids' who engage in cyberbullying.
Raise them in such manner that they feel empathy for cyberbullies instead of being threatened by them.
Check Your Child's Online Activities Regularly
They are still kids, so it's okay to spy on them until they are old enough to take care of themselves.
It's an excellent idea to keep an eye on their cell phones, computers, and other communication devices. Get their passwords and login details to see who’s sending them emails, commenting on their social media posts, and what they’re saying. And if you spot any concern, tackle it head-on.
It's okay to block out any social media friends or followers you are not comfortable with, or you feel it might pose a future threat to your child.
Kids can be very defensive or sensitive about these things – they may not understand why you're invading their privacy so much but let them know some of the ugly consequences of cyberbullying, and why you must protect them.
Don't be that parent that overreacts when your child is cyberbullied.
They may have taken a few wrong steps, maybe befriended someone they shouldn't have, or posted some naughty photos online but you should avoid overreacting.
When you don't overreact, it's easier for your child to open up to you about their online experiences in the future.
When your child has been a victim of cyberbullying, be supportive and understanding - talk to them about their feelings and try to dispel any negative self-image ideas that bullies may have put in their head.
Cooperate with your child to find a solution to the problem, and work with experts if necessary.
Don't Be Cool
Yes, you should be cool with your kid, but you should never extend the same courtesy to anyone who bullies or has been bullying your child online.
You see, one trait that bullies have in common is that they tend to be cowards themselves. So make sure you let the bully know that you are aware of what they've been doing, and will not hesitate to report them to the authorities.
Most social media platforms allow you to report cyberbullying cases, and they would usually block a bully's account after investigation.
Cyberbullying is a criminal offense in most states and countries of the world today so get as much information as you can about the bully – their names, home address, email address, phone numbers and so on.
Send them a memo and let them know that if they don't desist from bullying your child, you would have no problem involving the authorities.
If the bully is a child, you should communicate with their parents instead.
Teach Your Child How to Deal with Cyberbullies
First, let them know that they shouldn't delete any threats or vitriol from internet bullies.
They should keep all records but refrain from responding. All of these records can be used as proof if you ever need to report the case to the authorities.
Teach Your Child Not to Bully Others
This is very important. Most children who bully their peers online are usually unaware of the consequences of their actions or the effects it may be having on the victim.
Many of them see it as 'having fun' or 'asserting themselves.'
It's essential to educate your child about the effects of cyberbullying on the victims, and let them know that cyberbullying is never okay even if 'all the cool kids are doing it.'
It all boils down to how your child receives the actions of a bully.
If your child can recognize that the words and threats of a bully are coming from a troubled mind, and say more about the bully than the victim, then the psychological effects will be minimal.
Help your child develop a thick skin towards bullies, teach them to stand up for themselves whenever necessary, and let them know where to draw the line with bullies.