Headlines across the world every day highlight it. Governments are considering passing stricter laws about it. Celebrities are even getting involved in combating it. Kids have always been mean, but social media, texting, and constant interconnection have allowed some bullies to go too far. For some, it’s opened the door to 24/7 harassment.
Cyberbullying involves any technology as a medium to intentionally hurt or embarrass another person. This may include abusive or threatening messages, singling out and/or excluding individuals from a group, ‘outing’ someone by disclosing their private information, or ‘masquerading’ as a false identity for the purposes of harassment. While it’s nearly impossible to prevent cyberbullying altogether, below are a few tips to help kids stay cyber-safe.
Get educated: In order to teach children how to appropriately communicate and behave in the digital realm, parents need to be familiar with how the social networking sites work, how they may be used for cyberbullying, and what privacy settings and tools can be used to enhance online safety. Many websites also have methods of ‘reporting abuse’ if and when it occurs.
Initiate the discussion: Instead of saying, “If you’re ever having any trouble with anything, you can always talk to me,” try opening the discussion by asking your kids how they typically communicate with their friends online, if they’ve ever posted anything hurtful about someone, or sent a text they wish they could take back. This can lead to a larger discussion about what kinds of problems they’ve experienced or witnessed among friends and classmates.
Establish ground rules for digital behavior: Just as parents teach children how to behave in the ‘real world,’ parents now have to teach children how to behave online. Talk to your children about your expectations for digital communication, what kind of photos and posts are inappropriate or unacceptable, and who they are or are not allowed to engage with online. Establish clear ground rules and consequences to follow-through on.
Respond with action:In the event of a cyberbullying incident, talk to your children about what happened and how they feel; report the ‘abuse’ on the site that it occurred; and if it was school-related, contact school officials to see if there is an official cyberbullying policy or protocol to follow-through on.
While most of the discussion around cyberbullying relates to children and teenagers, many adults are also experiencing cyberbullying at work, amongst family or friends, or in online groups. If you wish to speak to a professional about a cyberbullying incident, ACI Specialty Benefits is just a call or click away. Call 800.932.0034 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.