The classic schoolyard bully may seem like a distant memory. However, bullying is all but a distant memory. Bullying, like most of our lives, has simply shifted to the digital sector of our lives. Unlike past generations, the current generation of youth are no longer safe from bullies once they cross through their front door. This phenomenon has come to know as cyberbullying and it is just as devastating, if not worse, than what most consider traditional bullying.
7 Ways to Prevent Cyberbullying
1.) Know Your Child
Before handing over a smartphone, think long and hard about whether your child is ready for the responsibility. There is no set age limit or standard in place for when the right time is exactly. However, you, the parent, are the best judge for when it’s the right time to hand over the keys to the smartphone world.
One way to gauge this coming of age moment is whether your child knows how to communicate with their peers online. This includes social media, messaging, and online gaming. Have they proven themselves trustworthy enough online to earn your trust?
2.) Understand how Social Media and Messaging apps work
There are countless social media platforms and messaging apps available these days. Even if you’re not the most tech savvy of parental units, it is vital for you to become familiar with the digital world in which your child lives. Social media, messaging, gaming apps and the sites your child engages with on a regular basis must become part of your working knowledge base. Doing so will prevent a technology language barrier between you and your child.
A few of the more essential social media platforms include the following:
- Tik Tok
Then you have your core messaging apps:
- Facebook Messenger
The team at Common Sense Media does a great job providing an overview of the more popular social media and messaging apps among today’s youth. You can check out their thoughts here.
3.) Learn how Cyberbullies operate
Like all the technology that surrounds us, cyberbullies are constantly evolving and changing their tactics. It is next to impossible to foresee what the future holds when it comes to cyberbullies. These menaces to society will likely post unflattering, humiliating or embarrassing images or videos. This media may even be subject to malicious photoshopping.
Once something is posted, it is darn near impossible to stop it, let alone remove it entirely. Once posted, all it takes is for a few peers to share said post and the original author could have an audience in the millions in a matter of minutes.
Cyberbullies are known for setting up fake accounts to troll others without revealing their identity. Even worse, cyberbullies may set up accounts posing as their targeted victim and post less than flattering content under a veil of secrecy.
4.) Engage in an ongoing dialogue with your child about Cyberbullies
This shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve taken the time to wrap your head around social media and the major messaging apps. In the simplest way possible, talk to your kids! Make sure that they can identify a cyberbully and know what to do if they encounter one.
If you take an active approach to social media, be on the lookout for instances of cyberbullying. This is a great way to actively show your children what cyberbullying looks like and the impact that it can have on an individual and the public in general. Make it clear that cyberbullying is exactly what it is by saying to your children, “that is cyberbullying”. This way there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. There is no sense in dancing around this very real scourge.
Help your kids always take a proactive approach to cyberbullying by reminding them to keep their privacy settings on lockdown on all their accounts. Make it a point to work with them to set clear rules for online behavior and to establish screen time limits.
5.) Monitor your child’s accounts
In a perfect world, our children would come to us at the first sign of any cyberbullying, but unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. As parents, our job is to be vigilant—and in this case, that means nosy. Know the usernames and passwords for all of your children’s accounts and check them frequently for red flags. If you’re not up to reading every post and text, an app like Bark can help by alerting you to potentially inappropriate conversations happening on your child’s phone or other devices.
6. Set limits
We all know that the more tired we get, the less inhibited we are, and it’s the same for kids. Setting firm limits on screen time, especially when it comes to messaging and social media apps can help stop problems before they start. Devices like Disney Circle make it easy to set specific bedtimes for mobile devices, control the amount of time your kids spend on certain apps and filter out websites you don’t want them to use.
7. Watch for warning signs
Cyber bullying might be happening on a screen, but its real-life effects aren’t hard to spot if you know what to look for. A child affected by cyberbullying may become withdrawn, spending more time than usual attached to their phone. They may have strong emotional reactions when asked to put away their devices, and they may be moodier than usual. You may also notice them shutting down their current social media account or creating new ones and hiding their device from view when you’re nearby. If you see any of these signs, it’s time to start a conversation.