It can be a scary thing when you notice a change in your child’s behavior and you come to find out that something happened, or is happening, to them online. That’s what happened to a friend of mine who recently reached out to me.
The details are private, but she said her daughter was dealing with some issues online that involved the personal information on her Facebook profile. Given what I knew about the situation, I told her the problem was one of two things: she was either being cyberbullied or she was being stalked by a “creeper”. I’m sharing my advice in case it will help you or another family in need. Here’s what I told her:
If it’s a situation of cyberbullying, here’s what you and your daughter can do.
- No matter what, don’t respond to the bully. That’s what they want.
- Make copies of the bullying so it’s documented. Learn how.
- Print out the copies and either mail or bring them to the parents’ house to show proof of bullying. Tell the parents you want it to end…and now. Let them know that you will involve law enforcement (and the school, if relevant) if it can’t be solved right then and there.
- Law enforcement can’t get involved or do a thing unless her life is threatened. That said, it doesn’t hurt to go to the police and document the incident.
- Block the bully from her Facebook account and from her cell phone.
- The daughter should take a big long break from Facebook. (Mom or dad could log in to see if the offender(s) are doing anything and document if necessary).
If the situation involves a creeper, it’s most likely because your daughter, like most Facebook users, doesn’t understand the importance of keeping her profile on privacy lock down. That means NO ONE should be able to view anything about her other than her name and profile photo, until they are accepted as a friend.
Some social networking safety tips follow:
- On any social network, it’s best to avoid using last names. Try and use first and middle names only.
- Phone numbers should never be shared on her profile. The only contact information that should be on there, if any at all, is her email address.
- There’s no need for her to disclose her high school name. Only her real life friends should know where she goes to school.
- She should never post her home address. Teens should disable Facebook Places and minimize Facebook photo tagging.
- Never accept a friend request from a person you don’t know in real life. For teens, this includes not accepting a friend request from someone they just met at a party last night.
- Whether a teen stalker/creeper or adult stalker/creeper, it’s best to not disclose any information that makes it easier for them to “get to you”. Again, her real life friends know who she is and what her contact information is.
- If it becomes serious, don’t hesitate to inform the police. Make copies of everything that happens so the police have evidence.
- Finally, block the person from her Skype, Instant Messenger, cell phone and anywhere else where they can possibly contact her.
She then asked what we do differently at Yoursphere when it comes to the online safety of our members. So I told her:
Our company has always focused on the family. We provide solutions for parents at YoursphereForParents.com, and most importantly, we provide a positive online place for kids and teens. Here’s a bit about what we do at Yoursphere.com:
- We don’t ask, require, post, share or sell (as Facebook does) any of the personally identifiable information that gives a creeper or a bully the tools they need to harass one of our members.
- We hold members accountable for their actions when we know someone has offended another member.
- We do our best to teach members about what it means to be Internet-safety-smart and how to be a positive contributor to our community. This includes reminding kids that they “own what they post”, and reminding them how important their actions are online because “online actions have real world consequences.”
- We monitor site activity and content, as well as investigate and respond to community interaction that is flagged so that we can preserve the age-appropriate positive community that we have worked so hard to build.
Because our children live a good chunk of their social lives online, we as parents have to take these situations seriously. We gave our kids the technology, but we haven’t been educated about the power and the pitfalls, or the rules and the ramifications, and subsequently, our children haven’t been either. And now, our children are becoming the victims. Understanding the characteristics of these issues as well as the solutions will enable us to better help our children when they need it. Then, we can help guide them in the right direction to being safe, responsible Internet users.