The stories have become more commonplace and even more tragic in recent years.
Just as a business worries about onlinereputationnews, many kids are worried about the reputation they are getting on the Internet these days, oftentimes being taunted, called hurtful names, and even threatened. For a number of them, such actions lead to them taking drastic steps like suicide to halt the attacks.
For older parents, those that may have dealt with a childhood bully on their school playground a few decades back, today’s kids oftentimes are subjected to online bullying that can strike 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
So, how rampant is cyber bullying and how can it be prevented in the first place?
According to a January 2012 Ipsospoll, one in 10 parents online (12%) around the world say their child has experienced cyberbullying while one in four (26%) report they know a child in their community who has gone through the same. Of those, a majority (60%) claim the children experienced the harassing behavior on social networking sites like Facebook.
In order to lessen the chances and even prevent cyber bullying from happening in many cases, there are things parents can do.
1. Talk it out – While some parents may be afraid to have a discussion with their child over cyber bullying, doing nothing about it is even worse. As many individuals have discovered from the tragic suicide cases that gained national and world headlines from different cyber bullying incidents, not intervening in time is something that will haunt some parents the rest of their lives. If you see significant mood changes with your child, get reports from a teacher or teachers that their grades are slipping or if they suddenly seem withdrawn and removed from friends, ask them why. Not inquiring may be the biggest mistake you make;
2. Talk to others – In some instances, children will be able to hide the fact from their loved ones that they are victims of cyberbullying. Being able to hide it from everyone is much more difficult. If you see changes in your child, talk to their teachers, their friends, others that they may be confiding in. While your child may be hesitant to discuss the matter with you, there is likely someone out there who knows what is going on;
3. Go online for solutions – Even though it may come across as snooping, checking your child’s computer and/or cell phone could very well provide you with clues, especially in cases where a younger child is involved. If you have their password to gain online access for example, do not be afraid to use it if you notice a change in your child. A little snooping here and there is not nearly as bad as getting a call from the police or hospital that something tragic has happened to your child. Keep the lines of communication with your child open, but do not hesitate to become more involved if the matter warrants;
4. Keep information personal – The last thing your child wants to happen is have the entire world (at least the world around them) know he or she is being bullied. Do not announce it to the world, rather seek whatever assistance is needed through your family, the schools, counseling, etc. Given that the majority of children bullied online typically fall in the 9 to 14 age range, instruct your kids from the moment they first learn how to work a computer to keep their private information such as computer passwords, home addresses etc. to themselves;
5. Avoid direct confrontation with the cyber bully – Although many parents would probably like to deal one-on-one with their child’s cyber bully directly, that is the last thing you need to do. It is best that you involve the schools, online services like Google and Facebook, and even law enforcement if necessary to bring an end to it. Confronting the other child and/or their parents sets up a possible issue between you and them that can get ugly;
6. Set online rules – Finally, make sure your child knows there are rules in place in the home for being online. If there are certain sites you do not want them on, either tell them that right up front or have filters in place to block such sites. While you can’t monitor your child 24/7 on the web since they may use computers outside your home during the day, you can let them know what is and is not acceptable under your roof.
Given that your child means more to you than anything else, preventing them from falling prey to a cyber bully should be a top priority in today’s Internet world