How to Keep Our Kids Safe From Cyberbullies
Bullying has been around since that snake tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, but the rise of social networks during the late 90s gave way for a new kind of bully.
For the first time, having a personal computers became affordable and found themselves in homes across the country. Then came AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), a social platform that made communicating with people on a global scale incredibly easy.
It was a revolution we loved because it made staying in touch with loved ones and have an even bigger reach to help others possible? With that positive, there’s always a negative and this particular one opened a Pandora’s box. It allowed unlimited access to anybody feasible and opened a door for the traditional bullying to make its way online. Why? Because traditional bullies could anonymously harass others online without a filter and without consequence.
Introducing: The cyber bully.
As defined by the English Oxford Dictionary, cyberbullying is: “The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.”
But we all know cyberbullying goes far beyond mean messages sent between people.
Cyberbullying can look like blackmailing someone via email, publicly targeting a person’s integrity online, or posting to either incriminate or embarrass another person on social media.
That is what’s happening to the 40% of kids that reported getting bullied online. A staggering 68% recognize it as a serious problem which in my mind, reaffirms just how important it is to manage screen time for our kids in an effort to keep them safe.
Spending time on the internet is as close as we can get to living in the wild west, because as much as we like to think social platforms are employing watchdogs to monitor users, we’re still dealing with a largely unregulated platform.
Is this something you already do? If so, how closely do you monitor your child’s internet use? Do they have a Facebook account, or are they using a social media platform you don’t even know exists? I’m asking because while my kids are still little, I know cyber bullies can choose to target anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Bullying, either online or face-to-face, doesn’t magically appear among children. During their early childhood years, children bring with them experiences that mold their actions. That means they could become the bully themselves. That simple fact gives you one more reason to help them disconnect and spend more time with the family; to monitor their actions and help them make good decisions.
Cyber bullying is something some of you may or may not have dealt with in the past, but it is something our children are certainly going to encounter because the internet isn’t going anywhere.
During those first few years of encountering the cyber bully, society didn’t quite know how to handle them or how much harm they could inflict on victims. But it turned out this new kind of bully would be the most dangerous one yet.
The psychological consequences of cyberbullying go beyond physical bullying. It changes how victims view themselves. It lowers their self-esteem, can lead to depression, and in some instances, even drive them to suicide. What’s even more alarming is that cyberbullying is silent to an unsuspecting outsider.
I know this is a heavy subject, but cyberbullying is a real thing that shows no signs of slowing down. Once something is on the internet, it’s there forever. This includes shared pictures or cruelly worded posts. That begs the question – what can we do to protect our kids?
First of all, parenting control software works wonders, and software monitoring systems do, too. Use them.
But physically taking devices out of the hands of our pre-teen, peak-teen and young adults during prime cyber bullying hours is a great way to keep them safe.
Research shows that the hours after dinner are the most common for bullying to occur. This is a good time to take away phones, tablets or computers and put whatever fits into a smart charging station. Spoiler: the computer probably won’t fit. So if they refuse to shut it down, just go ahead and shut off the WiFi. That’ll really make your kids feel like they’re living in the wild west – cut off from the world.
Taking action and paying attention doesn’t prevent someone from bullying your child, but it does prevent your child from responding and greatly decreases the chances your child could become a cyberbully victim or becoming a bully themselves.
Megan Cahak is a contributing TechDen writer, mom of two, firefighter wife, and is the owner of a copywriting company specializing in supporting small business growth online and in real life. Behind her big business dreams is a woman on a mission to make others laugh and nod their heads in solidarity when talking kids & technology, free-range parenting (that’s a thing), and the ‘good ole days’ of growing up in the late 90s, early 2000s. Unrelated, Megan’s been boycotting everything pumpkin spice to attest the fact that she’s not basic. She has yet to prove her case.