Cyberbullying: What Parents Can Do
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Cyberbullying is a fast-growing form of bullying that has emerged with the advent of technology. It involves sending offensive or threatening messages or images through the computer or cell phone. It is most often seen with middle- and high-school students although elementary-school students have also been involved in this high-tech form of bullying.
Just as with the more traditional face-to-face form of bullying, parents must be proactive in preventing cyberbullying. The overriding goal is to help children learn to act in a safe and respectful manner while online. You may lack the technological savvy of your children but you can certainly teach them how to make good decisions when it comes to interacting with others online or on the cell phone. Without adult guidance, cyberbullying is likely to continue unabated.
While your children may protest that what they say and do online is their business, you have an obligation to ensure that they are engaged in responsible online behavior and are not being harassed by others. The following are some steps parents can take to lessen their children’s exposure to online social cruelty:
- Consider not allowing your elementary-school child to go on the Internet if you are not home. Time-limiting software may help you do this.
- Place the computer in a common area of your home such as the family room so you can keep an eye on your child’s computer activity.
- Set some guidelines for your children’s Internet use. These might include the amount of time they can use the computer, the topics they are barred from talking about online, the messages they receive that they should bring to your attention, and the appropriate response to requests for personal information.
- Provide your children with the most important tool for preventing cyberbullying – good judgment. Stress to them the importance of being respectful of others and not doing or saying anything they would not want done to themselves.
- Explain why they should not post personal information online. Tell them specifically what information they should not post online, including name, screen name, street address, e-mail address, and telephone number.
- Get to know your children’s Internet friends to help you monitor their online influences.
- Monitor the chat rooms that your children enter, perhaps by sitting with them as they talk with others.
- Review your children’s Internet activity by checking the browser history. Have a talk with them if they are going to sites that concern you.
- Consider using filtering software on your computer. This software will lessen the chance that your children will be a target of cyberbullies by offering features to protect your child. As one example, you might consider using the Google Safe Search filtering tool (www.google.com/familysafety/tools.html).