Thursday, July 12, 2012

Steps That You, As A Parent, Can Take To Prevent Cyberbullying

In a previous post, I talked about what a parent or child can do if they know or suspect that cyberbullying is taking place. However, I'm sure we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What are some things you and/or your child do to prevent cyberbullying from happening?
  • Remind your child that the same 'rules' about dealing with people in person also apply online. It is very easy to forget that there is a person with feelings on the other side of a computer screen, so we might be more willing to do or say things that we ordinarily wouldn't. Being relatively anonymous just adds to it it. Remind your child that this is not acceptable. Asking, 'how would you feel if someone said that about you?' might make some teenagers roll their eyes, but it is a very important question they should consider. Reinforce the values you have taught them about how to treat others. Also, reminding them to use emoticons or abbreviations such as 'j/k' (just kidding) when joking around can go a long way in making sure that something that is meant in fun isn't taken the wrong way.
  • Remind your child that anything that is posted online is up there to stay, and for anyone to see. Teach them to ask themselves, 'would I want a future employer/college/my mom/etc to see this?' With more and more employers and others using Facebook or Google to 'vet' potential candidates, it's pretty easy for someone to harm their reputation simply by posting certain pictures and comments online. I've known people who were denied jobs or scholarships because their employers saw some of their distasteful and mean conversations or pictures online. While this might seem extreme, remember that character amounts to a lot more than we might think, so your child should think about the possible affects something can have on their reputation before posting.
  • This might go without saying, but remind your child not to pass on anything they get from a cyberbully and/or to block such a person. Have them tell the bully to stop, and refuse to participate in any way. This includes retaliating against someone who bullies them, because all it does is keep the cycle going!
  • Tell your children not to open messages from people they don't know, or from known bullies. Some of the more 'sophisticated' types might try to cause harm by sending emails that spread viruses or other malware. I once had someone send me an attachment with a Trojan horse (password-stealer) virus and proceeded to send out porn links to over 200 people in my name. Can you imagine what kind of damage that would do to my reputation if the wrong person saw that? Also, remind that we might seem anonymous online, but that isn't 100%. There are ways to trace a person's conduct back to them.
  • Monitor your child's use of cell phones and the internet, and have them add you as a 'friend' on Facebook or other social networking sites. Remind them not to give out their password or other potentially-identifying information.
  • Model proper use of technology yourself. While most adults probably wouldn't participate in such immature acts as harassing someone online, it's still important that you exercise the caution regarding postings, passwords and manner of speaking that you want to see in them.
As you can see, there are many ways you as a parent can help prevent cyberbullying involving your child from happening. The 'ripple effect'-the idea that a seemingly-small action can set off things with a much wider 'reach'-is just as true on the internet as it is in 'real-life', if not more. I know it might not seem so, but teaching your child to combat cyberbullying is one step closer to getting rid of it for good.

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