While starting a new school year can be exciting and fun, it can also be tough for children of any age — dealing with new teachers and new students, and continuing the friendships (and rivalries) that they formed during the previous year. But these days it’s even more difficult for students as school dynamics and drama have a significant presence online, essentially coming home with the child through digital devices and social media.
Cyberbullying is probably the most threatening issue that children face when they’re online, and social networks play a significant role in the severity of this issue. For the same advantageous reasons that make social media a great tool to help victims of cyberbullying, it can also be used to perpetrate cyberbullying, especially among teens. According to the Teen Internet Behavior study that was conducted by McAfee, “Almost one in four teens claimed to be a target of cyberbullying and two-thirds of all teens have witnessed cruel behavior online”.
It’s fair to say that these numbers will only continue to increase as children spend more time online, and if they’re a part of social networks that aren’t committed to their privacy, safety, and on creating a culture of respect and positive interaction like Yoursphere is. This growth, for the most part, is amplified due to a disconnect between children and their parents and a lack of awareness on the parent’s part when it comes to the consequence of engaging in behavior such as cyberbullying. The only way to reverse the trend is to engage your kids in healthier, kid-focused social networks, and by spreading your knowledge of online safety practices with others, be it at a PTA meeting or at work.
If your child is dealing with cyberbullying in their school, you can use these five strategies to assist you in combating it.
- Sit down with your child and go through their social network accounts. Extensively document any instance of cyberbullying by taking screenshots. I recommend using “Awesome Screenshot”, which is an add-on for Chrome and Firefox. Click here to download it for Chrome. For Firefox, go to the “Add-Ons” tab on your browser and search for “Awesome Screenshot”.
- Talk to the parent of the student that is doing the bullying. Show them the content their child has posted. Ask them to have their child stop bullying your child.
- Block the bully from your child’s social media accounts.
- Download parental monitoring software to monitor your child’s online activity. In the event that they are cyberbullied, the software can make it easier to document any pertinent information. Here, you can review a full list of parental monitoring solutions that we’ve reviewed in the past.
- As a precaution against future cyberbullying, you can also go through your cell phone carrier to have certain phone numbers blocked, which is a great way to stop harassing text messages or phone calls. For more information on the safety solutions that US carriers offer, click here.
In the state of California, all digital evidence of cyberbullying can be taken to school administrators and used to punish the children responsible (ref). Other states have laws in place to protect children who have been victims of cyberbullying, but they vary significantly from state to state. This website has centralized all state laws regarding cyber harassment and cyberstalking, the two topics which cover most instances of cyberbullying, so be sure to read up on the laws in your state to learn what recourse you and your children can take.