The internet and Smartphones are the primary way children today socialize. Though there are benefits to this form of communication, planning IRL (in real life) play dates or trips to the movie theater, getting missed homework assignments or collaborating on group projects. However, there is a dark side to children maintaining an online profile. Cyberbullying is the most common of the “dark side” of social media. Kids can be both bullied in the cyber world and turn around and be bullies to other kids – sometimes, the victim can also be the aggressor.
What can parents do to prevent Cyberbullying? Get more involved and aware of your child’s world socially, developmentally, and technologically. For pre-teens, parents and caretakers can monitor their use of technology and set time limits. Keep any eye on their activities and let them know it. Educate both your kids and yourself about online harassment. A good place to start is Common Sense Media’s tips for standing up to cyberbullying.
For teens and older, their social world is mainly made up of real life friends and a continued social environment that extends outside of school. Social media is their cyber “hang out.” At this age, teens are independent online and require less restriction, but still need to be educated in what is and is appropriate to post. They also need reminders that, on the internet, there is no such thing as “private information,” everything from emails to photos can be made public at the touch of a button – whether it’s on purpose or not. It’s also important you keep the lines of communication open. Let your teen know that if someone is bullying them, you would rather know about it than not know. If they’re not comfortable with sharing that information with you, let them know they can tell any adult they trust what’s going on, as long as they tell someone. At this age, their internet life is all about trust and support from you.