By Janice Miller
Keeping your children safe online can be challenging. Often, cyberbullying is a significant concern, especially since 21 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 18 have been cyberbullied at some point in their lives.
However, by learning how to prevent, spot, and address cyberbullying, you can make a difference. If you aren’t sure how to begin, A Wired Family presents some tips that can help.
Tips to Prevent, Spot, and Address Cyberbullying
Usually, your best bet for preventing cyberbullying is to be aware of your child’s online activities. First, set clear rules regarding device use. That can include deciding which apps they can or can’t use, when they are allowed to use them, and under what conditions.
In some cases, you may want to use a parental control or monitoring app, particularly if your child is younger. However, be open about the fact it’s there and why you’re using it.
It’s also wise to get to know the apps your child uses. Researching any terminology and symbology you’re unfamiliar with is similarly smart, as it helps you understand the conversations that are unfolding.
You also want to create a climate where your child feels comfortable talking to you. Additionally, discuss cyberbullying with them. Share examples of that type of activity, as well as discuss the harm it can do. Also, give them tools for responding to cyberbullying, whether they are the target or if they see others cyberbullying someone else.
Whether you’re using a monitoring app or not, it’s possible to spot signs of cyberbullying. Here are some of the more common indicators that your child is either participating in or being targeted by cyberbullying:
- Significant change in device use, including both increases and decreases
- Outwardly reacting to activity on their device (smiling, frowning, laughing, etc.)
- Changes in behavior or emotional state
- Avoiding device use when others are nearby
- Closing social media accounts or launching new ones
- Avoiding talking about their device use
- Skipping social events they once enjoyed
- Losing interest in activities or people they used to like
If your child is the victim of cyberbullying or witnessed another person being cyberbullied, you want to address the situation correctly. Usually, it’s best to speak with your child about the situation. Next, start collecting evidence of the activity if possible.
After that, create a plan with your child about what comes next. In some cases, enlisting support from other parents or trusted adults may be a great idea, particularly if they may have influence over the bully. Your child may also be able to garner support from some of their peers, creating opportunities for positive social pressure that may end the behavior.
If a classmate is involved, reporting the activity to the school may be wise. Reporting the cyberbully to the platform might also be a good move. If there are threats of violence or other potentially criminal behavior, going to the police might be an option.
Bonus Tip: Have a Conversation About Dating Apps
If your teen is interested in dating apps, it’s best to get on the same page. First, they need to understand that dating apps traditionally don’t allow minors. For example, the minimum age requirement for Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid is 18, and they aren’t the only ones.
However, there are some apps designed for younger teenagers. MyLOL has a minimum age of 13 but also a maximum age of 19. Yubo allows teens as young as 13 to sign up and keeps teens in a separate part of the app, keeping them away from adult users.
But even if an app is designed for teens, that doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be cautious. Additionally, you should set clear expectations regarding connecting with teens on the apps.
It’s wise to express the importance of not hurting other users and acting appropriately if someone mistreats them. By underscoring safety, you can reduce the risk of cyberbullying and in-person harm, ensuring they can have a positive experience.
About Janice Miller: Janice is a retired veterinarian and loves sharing her knowledge about pet safety and care. She helped co-create Safety Today because she wanted to have a way to spread reputable pet health and safety resources to pet owners everywhere.