Looking Forward to School?
As summer winds up and students start looking forward to their first day of school, parents need to be aware that returning to class may mean that students are returning to being victims of online bullying through social networks.
I can speak from personal experience how prevalent cyberbullying is online. My son has been the target of online bullies. Fortunately, he let us know immediately and we were able to take appropriate steps to stop the behaviour.
Some Scary Statistics
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this recent infographic released by AllFacebook.com does a very good job of demonstrating exactly how prevalent cyberbullying has become.
According to a recent study by McAfee, Facebook has become the preferred avenue for bullies online. According to McAfee's research, 92.6% of teens say they have been victims of cruel or bullying behaviour on Facebook.
Most Teens Know it's Going On
Almost one quarter of teens (25%) indicate that they have been a target of cyberbullying, and two thirds of teens admit to having witnessed cruel behaviour online.
But Parents are Clueless
Sadly, teenagers indicate that only 10% of parents are aware that their children have been a target of cyberbullying.
Nova Scotia's Efforts
Nova Scotia recently released its report on cyberbullying. For more information, you can read my previous articles Childhood Memories Show Lasting Effects of Bullying – More needs to be done and More Needs to Be Done in Nova Scotia to Protect Children Against Cyberbullying
The Nova Scotia report contains some excellent recommendations, including empowering schools to be able to discipline students who engage in cyberbullying after school hours or not on school property.
Not Acted Upon
Unfortunately, the province of Nova Scotia has failed to act on most of the recommendations. Instead, the province has decided to conduct further study before implementing any changes to legislation that would empower schools to punish or discipline students who have been found to be committing cyberbullying online.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Children?
Here are five tips to help protect your children online:
Every parent likes to think that their children will tell them if they have been a target of bullying. But the McAfee research suggests that isn't happening. It is important to have a clear and open conversation with your children about cyberbullying.
Let them know that you understand what cyberbullying is, that it happens to lots of kids, and that you want them to know that you are there to help them if they have been a victim of cyberbullying, and that you will put a stop to it.
It’s most important to let your children know that you will not judge or blame them if you find out that they have been engaged in inappropriate or embarrassing activity that might have made them a target for bullying.
It’s also important to let your children know that you do not want them to be a victim of bullying nor do you want them to engage in any behaviour that might make them a bully.
2. Get Online
As a caring involved parent, you want to know who your kids are hanging out with, right? You pay attention to what social groups they are joining, what parties they attend. Your childs online activities shouldn't be any different. You should be showing the same interest in the social circles that your children are engaged in online.
Find out which social networks your children participate in (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are popular choices), and create an account so you can friend or follow your children. Depending on how old your kids are, they may not be too thrilled with the idea, but let them know that if they want to be online you need to be able to be online with them.
3. Learn What to Do
If your child becomes a victim of harassing or bullying behaviour, you should know how to contact the social network to report the behaviour, and how to block the bully from further communication.
Learn how to help your child change their contact information, and take a screen shot of any inappropriate or bullying posts to be able to provide to your internet service provider, the authorities, your children’s school, or the social network.
4. Pay Attention
No matter how open you are with your children they may not be as willing to be open with you. They may be afraid or unwilling to let you know if they are being victimized. Children who are being victimized often show certain signs like becoming more withdrawn from family and friends, becoming angry or moody.
Admittedly, sometimes it may be difficult to distinguish between “normal” teenage mood swings and the signs of someone who is being bullied. But being aware and sensitive to the issue means you will be in a better position to step in and offer help.
5. Take it Seriously
It is important that you take the issue of bullying seriously. Whether your child is the victim of bullying or is the one doing the bullying, you need to take immediate steps to try to resolve the problem.