In today's connected world, your child is constantly surrounded by social media and smartphones. While you may be prepared to protect your child from the potential dangers that lurk online, children of all ages are vulnerable to bullying as they use the web. Opportunities for bullying spring up through instant messaging, in chat rooms, and on social networking sites like Facebook. If your child is bullied by someone she met through a chat room or gaming site, she may not even know who the bully is and may be reluctant to tell you about a problem for fear of having the computer taken away.
Find out how to identify cyberbullies and ensure that your child's time online — and on social media — remains bully-free.
Signs Your Child May Be Dealing With a Cyberbully
- He stops using the computer without explanation
- He appears nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message or email
- He is uneasy about going out or going to school
- He appears angry or depressed after using the computer
- He is secretive about what he does on the computer
- He is abnormally withdrawn from friends and family
Make Computers, Phones, and Tablets a Safe Space
The first step to keeping your child’s web time bully-free is to make sure your family computer and tablet are a safe space, along with your child's phone (if she has one). Here are some other simple ways to keep your child safe:
- Let your child know you’re paying attention to her web usage. Keep the family computer somewhere out in the open. Absolutely keep webcams out of your child’s bedroom.
- Talk to your child about the websites she visits. Keep a log of the websites, usernames, and passwords she uses (if applicable).
- Set up permissions on tablets and smartphones so your child cannot download an app without your password. Make sure to discuss best practices for each app that is downloaded.
- Make sure your child doesn’t give out any personal information in chat rooms, on social networking sites, or personal webpages.
- Use parental controls to block websites and apps that aren’t kid-friendly. Set up firewalls to block viruses.
- Tell your child to delete emails and close instant-message boxes from people she doesn’t know. If the person continues to email or message, help your child block the account.
- Follow your child on social media sites and speak to her if any posts are inappropriate.
Share Strategies for Dealing With Cyberbullies
While it may be harder to identify a cyberbully than a “real life” bully, chat room names, email addresses, and instant-messenger accounts can be changed at the drop of a hat. Talk to your child about what he does on the web and consider these steps to build a cyberbully-proof plan:
- Encourage your child to ignore cyberbullies, even if what they are saying isn’t true. Remember, ignoring a cyber bully is as easy as deleting an email or closing an instant-messenger window.
- Block the email addresses and instant-messenger accounts of bullies. Even if your child hasn’t met his bully “in real life,” you don’t need personal details to filter out harassing emails.
- If the bullying takes place in a chat room or on a forum, moderators for the site can be notified and the bully’s account can be suspended. Instant messenger services also have ‘report abuse’ options.
- If your child knows his bully “in real life,” you might want to arrange a meeting between children and parents to work out the problem in person.
If your child has a repeat problem or is threatened by a bully, be sure to save a copy of the exchange with the date and time. Contact your internet service provider (ISP) — they may be able to track down the bully. If your child is being harassed by someone who seems to know a lot of information about her, it may be necessary to contact the police.