Bullying is unfortunately no longer restricted to schools and play-grounds. The Internet makes 24-hour harassment possible and that means your kids are constantly exposed to what has come to be known as “cyber-bullying”.
Cyber-bullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mails after the recipient has made it clear they don’t want anything to do with the sender. But it can go as far as making threats and sexual remarks, insulting, ridiculing or lying about the victim on forums, websites and social media. Cyber-bullies can publicize personal information about their targets and use their identity to post material that defames or ridicules them. Some will harass the victims by e-mail or instant messaging or post rumors and instigate other people against them.
As scary as it all sounds, there’s no need to be alarmed, just cautious.
Here are some tips on how to keep your kids safe:
Talk to them about cyber-bullying as soon as they start using the Internet. This is a case where it’s definitely better to prevent than repair, so talk to your kids about the dangers they face online and encourage them to tell you when something or someone upsets them. It would probably help if you promised they will not lose their computer or phone privileges just because someone else is mean to them. And make it very clear that you’re there to help them right away.
Teach them the basic rules of using the Internet. Talk to them about the websites they visit, the social networks they use, the forums or blogs they write on. Make sure they understand how important it is to keep personal information private and choose wisely who they communicate with online. Explain proper password care: make it clear that passwords are not to be shared with others or kept in folders on the computer. If they have a laptop or internet-connected phone, they should know that lending these devices to friends and classmates is a serious risk they should not take.
Keep an eye on their online activity. It would be best if you could do this by keeping an open line of communication about what they do online. But with younger children you could also try keeping Internet-connected devices such as desktops and game consoles in a room where the family gets together every day.
Look for internet security software with a parental control feature. Monitoring your kids’ online activity may be easier said than done, with all the responsibilities you have as a parent. So it makes perfect sense to take full advantage of today’s technology. BullGuard Internet Security comes with a particularly helpful Parental Control feature. It allows you to monitor and limit the time your kids spend online, the websites they visit and the information they share. All this with just a handful of easy settings.
Watch out for signs of cyber-bullying in your child’s behaviour and state of mind. If you notice them getting upset while on the web or being scared and worried about going to school, it’s time for a serious talk. Don’t assume it’s something minor that will quickly pass. The early signs of cyber-bullying may seem minor, but they’re as serious as they get.
Teach them not to respond to cyber-bullies. The attackers are looking for a reaction that tells them they’ve got the right victim. So teach your kids to ignore suspicious phone calls and disturbing e-mail messages, instant messages or comments on social media sites or forums. You should also discourage any action of revenge because it would only make things worse by annoying or enticing the bully. But this doesn’t mean they should not come to you as soon as something feels wrong.