Cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon in recent years, a direct result of the increase in mobile connectivity and social media use by teens and tweens. It is also a term that fills a parent’s heart with dread because of the frequent, and often alarming news coverage. However, there are ways to protect your child from cyberbullying that every parent should be aware of.
To protect your child from this disturbing trend you must first understand what cyberbullying is and what signs may indicate that your child is being affected. Cyberbullying results in the same damaging effects as any other form of bullying, just with a different contact method. This refers to the use of electronic devices, cell phones, computers, and tablets to convey mean and hurtful messages to the victim. These messages can be sent via text, social media sites, chat or other websites.
Cyberbullying brings an entirely new threat to children, as it is difficult to escape the use of technology to reach the intended target. Bullies can leave damage any time of the day or night, anonymously, and many times these hurtful posts are seen by a wider audience of the victim’s peers, increasing the damage.
The effects of cyberbullying on a young, pre-pubescent child are highly damaging. As a parent, your child may feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell you about the situation, unsure how you can help. It is important to remain vigilant and take a position of authority when teens and tweens are using technology. Teaching your child to refrain from posting photos or videos online that may put them on the radar screen is an important preventative step.
As a parent, monitoring your child’s online activity is also critical in preventing cyberbullying. If your child is engaged in a social media site, set up your own account and friend or follow your child. This is something your child will be aware of, but will allow you to view any communications about your child that may be publicly shared.
Additionally, more and more parents are turning to monitoring software for their child’s electronic devices. Applications such as TxtWatcher allow parents to monitor for alerts in “hot words” sent via text. This service also ensures that parents can decipher a text, which may be written in abbreviated form or shorthand, through a translation engine called SmartAlec.
To be vigilant about your child’s online use, it is also critical to stay up to date if someone may be tweeting about your child on Twitter. TxtWatcher allows parents to monitor public Twitter messages when your child is being referenced. By centralizing this information into one common area, you can make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
By receiving alerts when flagged terms, indecent photos or other hot buttons for cyberbullying are sent or received, parents can take a more proactive approach to ensuring their child is safe and bully-free. Communication is key to preventing your child from becoming a victim of cyberbullying. Keeping an open line of non-judgmental discussion will ensure that if they are being bullied your child will find a safe haven to confide in you.