Nowadays our kids can’t imagine life without technologies and the internet. Sometimes parents give tablets and phones to their toddlers to play so that they will be quiet. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised when your 8-year old child asks you to set up a social media account for them. Everyone is online and little kids just want to belong to the group. Let’s face it, some parents are even happy to push their children into the digital world – they create accounts on Instagram for kids who can barely speak.
According to data published by PDPlay, 67% of children in the United States have their own social media accounts. On the one hand, the internet can help kids learn and connect with each other. On the other hand, children face dangers online every day. The worse thing is that they deal with scams, phishing, cyber predators and cyberbullying on their own most of the time. Only one in ten kids tell their parents about being a victim of bullying online.
At this point, cyberbullying is the most common threat. Learn how you can protect your kids from it and help them in case they were attacked.
The Roots of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a form of harassment through the use of social media. It can include sending abusive, threatening or hurtful messages, setting up fake online profiles, sharing embarrassing images or videos. The latest statistics show that 46% of kids in the US have experienced cyberbullying at least once in their lifetime.
Kids use this form of shaming their peers because it is easy to go unpunished. Sometimes it is impossible to find the person who has started the cyberbullying, especially when some videos or messages go viral. It is important to mention that most cyberbullies don’t always realize the consequences of their actions; they think that it is funny.
Cyberbullying victims feel overwhelmed and have low self-esteem. They don’t know whether they can trust someone since bullies are usually hiding behind the screen and send threats anonymously. As stated above, kids feel ashamed to ask their parents to help because they think it’s impossible to solve the problem without drawing attention.
How to Protect Your Child from Cyberbullying
If you don’t want your kids to become victims of cyberbullying, you need to have an open discussion with them. Tell them that you are aware of cyberbullying among kids and teens. You should be friends with your children if you want them to trust you. To do so, you need to be always there for them – spend time together, listen to them carefully, and avoid scolding them. Your kids should know that you will not judge them for anything including bad language, shameful pictures, or videos.
Another thing that you can do is get involved in the process. For example, you can follow your kids on Twitter and like their pictures on Instagram. Be a cool parent and try to avoid writing comments under their posts or pictures so that they will not feel embarrassed. You might think that calling your teenager a pumpkin is sweet, but your daughter or son likely doesn’t think this way.
Some parents also insist on knowing their children’s passwords for all sites they use. If you plan to do the same, be gentle. Would you like your spouse to control your social media? Older kids also want some privacy. On the younger side however it is perfectly acceptable to insist that children under 12 years old provide their passwords.
How to Help Your Child if they are Being Cyberbullied
Of course, you will try to do your best to protect your kid, but sometimes it is impossible to control everything. That’s why you need to pay attention to changes in your child’s behavior. There are certain signs that can signal that your child became a victim:
- Doesn’t want to go to school and meet with friends
- Looks nervous when receiving phone notifications
- Has insomnia
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Unexplained depression or anger
- Suicide attempts
Keep your eyes peeled for these signs and you will be able to help your kids while it’s still not too late. If you know that there is a problem, help your kid step away from the device and spend some time offline. Also, if your kids can identify bullies, you can talk to their parents and teachers. Punishment for cyberbullying is real. For instance, bullies can get kicked off the sports team, pay a fine or even go to jail for two years (depending on the case).
You need to empower your kids and their friends to take action. The first and most important is to block the bully. Another thing your kid can do is to report cyberbullying to the site. It is possible to control who can contact you on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. In the case of being harassed or bullied over text messages, contact the phone provider to report this case. Also, it is better to print out these messages as proof of cyberbullying.
Most importantly, be there for your kids. While they feel powerless and overwhelmed, you can help them through this tough time by supporting them and make bullies stop.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe Online.