WebPurify Shares Practical Tips for Parents
The Internet is a fantastic resource for keeping in touch with friends and family, but it has a dark side that can make it a dangerous place for children and teens.
According to data compiled by advocates at Guard Child, 65% of kids between the ages of eight and 14 have been involved in a cyberbullying incident, and most tend to occur on social media.
Furthermore, BullyingStatistics.org reports that cyberbullying affects many adolescents and teens daily. Here are a few of the current statistics:
- 64% of people who have been cyberbullied say it affects their ability to learn and feel safe at school. [Cyberbullying Research Center]
- 60% of teens have received a message from a stranger, and half have communicated back. [San Diego County District Attorney]
- 57% have been bullied in an online game. [Ditch the Label]
- 42% have been bullied on Instagram, 37% on Facebook, 31% on Snapchat. [Ditch the Label]
- 25% have encountered unwanted pornography. [San Diego County District Attorney]
While cyberbullying isn’t exactly a new trend, it’s increasing due to the rise in social media use.
The Perils of Cyberbullying for Children
Cyberbullying is the act of using smartphones and computers to make a person feel sad, angry, anxious, depressed, scared—and in some cases, suicidal.
This behavior includes sending aggressive or mean texts, posting embarrassing photos or hurtful information about another person on social networks such as Instagram, or spreading harmful rumors publicly through social networks, group texts, social postings, and live streaming apps.
According to Dr. Adam Pletter, child psychologist and advisor to WebPurify, “It’s difficult for parents to know if their child is a victim of cyberbullying. Many kids choose not to tell, and are worried their device will be taken away.”
It’s essential for parents to learn the signs of cyberbullying and protect their sons or daughters from feeling weak and powerless. Dr. Pletter recommends looking for these signs:
- The child is emotionally agitated after getting off the Internet or their device
- The child is anxious or uneasy when receiving an alert or text message
- The child is unwilling to hand over their device
- The child is moody, withdrawn, depressed or often irritable or on edge
- The child exhibits changes in behavior, sleep patterns, appetite, or grades at school
The Challenges of Cyberbullying for Parents
According to Josh Buxbaum, co-founder of WebPurify, although there is a lot of data out there, it’s really difficult to accurately determine how many kids are victims of cyberbullying, due to many of them hiding their struggle.
“Some platforms aren’t properly monitoring for bullying and child endangerment,” says Buxbaum. “Statistics show parents are not paying enough attention either, and they need to stay vigilant.”
Once an image or post is circulated on the Internet, it may never disappear, resurfacing later and renewing the victim’s suffering or affecting college or work applications.
And while parents play a huge part in knowing the technology, the signs, and means of cyberbullying, according to the San Diego County District Attorney only 52% of parents moderately supervise their children’s Internet use, and 20% do not monitor use at all, leaving room for dangerous interactions that parents will never become aware of.
What Families Can Do to Protect Their Kids
Cyberbullying can happen at any time, at any location, and many teens won’t tell their parents if they are a victim of cyberbullying. Buxbaum says parents can take control to keep their children safe when they’re online and offers 15 tips for protecting kids when they’re online.
- Discuss What Cyberbullying Looks Like. Sit down and discuss the dangers of the Internet. Talking openly and honestly about what’s out there, how teens can be cruel to one another, and how to avoid problematic encounters. Be prepared to listen.
- Educate Yourself. Understanding how apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter work will open your eyes to how your child can be taken advantage of online and enable you to have smarter conversations with your child.
- Create Guidelines to be a Positive Digital Citizen. Discourage your child from posting things that could be hurtful to other people. Teach them to distance themselves from those who bully others, and turn the tables by saying something kind to someone online instead.
- Set Reasonable Time and Usage Limits. Establish rules about what your child can and can’t do when on the Internet. Set time limits on their computer and phone use.
- Set Parental Controls. Computers, iOS, and Android devices, and gaming consoles all offer parental controls. Adjust them as needed, to say, disable photo and video camera streaming after 8 pm.
- Spend Time Online with Your Kids. Look for opportunities to spend some time online with your child. Help them research a paper for homework, join them for an online game or spend time together, learning more about how they use Instagram and other social networks. Ask your child to go over their list of contacts in their phone and social apps so that you can know more about the people with whom they communicate and how. Randomly spot check these communications with your child.
- Discuss Smart Use of Chat Platforms. Make sure your child knows that no matter how nice an online “friend” may seem to be, they may not be who they appear to be.
- Take Care with Live Streaming Platforms. Ensure that children don’t mention where they are while live streaming; on some platforms if location services are on, viewers can find out exactly where you are. If streaming from home, it’s easy to forget that t-shirts, piles of books and mail could give away a child’s address, school name, and interests. If children are asked uncomfortable questions, or encouraged to do anything unpleasant while live streaming, make sure to help with no judgment.
- Say No to Giving Out Personal Information. Make your kids understand how giving out personal information like their phone number or address can be harmful.
- Avoid “In Real Life” Meetings with Online Friends Without a Parent. Teens should understand the dangers of going alone to meet a person they met online and how some people impersonate kids to get them to meet them. If they really want to meet someone, they should always tell a parent about their decision and take a parent along to a very public meeting place.
- Watch for your Child Using Another Screen Name. Your child can be using an online account belonging to someone else to bypass filters, or they could be bullying other children from an anonymous account.
- Be Aware of Fake Accounts. Teens may create more than one social media account; fake Instagram accounts (“finstas” or “privates”) may make it harder for parents to become aware of cyberbullying.
- Stay Alert and Be Their Support System. Review the signs of cyberbullying and questionable activity and ask your child if something is bothering them. Kids can be reluctant to talk at first, so ask them more than once. Make sure your kids know they can come to you with any concern.
- Emphasize No Loss of Internet Privileges. Overcome the main reason kids choose not to speak up about cyberbullying.
- Make a Pledge. Dr. Pletter suggests creating a family contract that outlines different expectations for both parents and teens. For example, a parent’s pledge might assert that “I will not overreact if my child tells me about a problem he or she is having on the Internet. Instead, we’ll work together to try to solve the problem and prevent it from happening again.”