How To Prevent Cyber Bullying
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October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and for the youth of today, much of the bullying that they face can take place on the internet through cyber bullying. There are some great tools that Nerds on Call recommends to ensure that kids and parents alike have what they need to protect themselves and treat others with respect and compassion online.
The people at TeenSafe have put together a powerful infographic for National Bullying Prevention Month. According to this infographic, 43% of kids report being bullied online, this is more than those who have been bullied in person. This statistic is likely tied to the fact that 81% of kids say that bullying is easier online. Cyber bullying is also easier to witness and ignore, because 90% of teens who see cyber bullying say that they have ignored it. Some statistics not included in the graphic are that only 7% of U.S. parents are worried about cyber bullying because only 1 of every 10 cyber bullying victim ever tells an adult. Bullying is not a one way street, as victims of bullying are prone to suffer from depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and their school work can also take a hit. Those who do the bullying are more likely to exhibit substance abuse issues, academic issues, and behavioral problems.
So, as a parent, what can you do to help? For starters, know that it is important to talk about cyber bullying and the effects that it has. Encourage your kids to come to you if anything happens online that makes them uncomfortable. Explain to them that some online bullying is not direct, and that certain things like unflattering photos or personal text messages could be considered cyber bullying. Give your children the tools to fight back and ask them what they would do in certain situations to help them build a response that they are comfortable with and proud of. It is important to be directly involved in your kids’ internet use instead of preaching best-case scenarios.
Parents can also reduce access to social media. Wait until your child is old enough before they begin to build an online presence, and it can help for parents to be a part of building the first social media page for their children. Before you go about getting your kids online, talk to them about how you will monitor their activity and why, so that you can address any concerns your child has about their responsibilities as a member of the internet. It is also important to build your child’s self-confidence, compassion, and self-worth outside of social media. Kids without a strong sense of self-worth are much more vulnerable to cyber bullying, and can be damaged by social media time. Children who are more compassionate are less likely to bully others and more likely to intervene when they witness cyber bullying taking place.
Some great websites to encourage compassion online are Zingity and Digital Compass. Zingity helps encourage character development in kids with real world challenges. If your child has a strong sense of self-worth, they are less likely to get emotionally bested by a cyber bully. Digital Compass helps teach digital citizenship in a fun, ‘choose your adventure’ style game. These games include different lessons such as Internet Safety and Self-Image, as well as Relationships and Communication.
If you are curious about what your child is doing on the internet, TeenSafe has a great monitoring tool that is optimized for mobile devices. This tool allows parents access to texts, web search history, third party app reviews, as well as app activity from popular programs like Kik and Instagram. For general tips about cyber bullying prevention, visit www.witsprogram.ca. These tips are for kids who are experiencing cyber bullying, and include steps such as log off the site on which you feel threatened, do not respond to the harassment, block the people harassing you, save the proof, and talk to an adult. All of these steps are important, along with changing the way that our children act online if we wish to stop cyber bullying.
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Courtney: Yeah, Ryan Eldridge is here and I was just telling Ryan, I’m a mommy mess at this point because my daughter is ten, she goes to Middle School next year, she wants a cellphone. I’m freaking out about the whole thing. I mean, cyberbullying is something that we didn’t have to deal with when we were kids.
Ryan: No. When I was in school, I mean I’m a nerd, so in school I got bullied, and when I was really young I even did a little bit of bullying myself. I kind of got my payback in middle school when I got my glasses and everything. So here’s the thing about cyberbullying, the first part is we got to bring a little bit of awareness to this. Here’s the thing, 22% of kids will report being bullied, that’s just like in real life, but 43% will report being bullied online.
Courtney: That’s intense.
Ryan: That’s huge. When you think about it, it’s nearly double. So here’s the thing about cyberbullying, is 81% of young people say that it’s easier to bully people online and 90% of teens who see cyberbullying say they’ve completely ignored it. So they see their friend or someone else, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m not going to worry about that.” But here’s the thing about parents, there was a peer study that was recently done, only 7% of parents thinks that it’s something that they need to worry about and talk to their kids about. That could be because only 1 in 10 children actually report…
Courtney: Even say something about it.
Ryan: Yeah, because they’re embarrassed, you know, somebody posted a funny photo of them or somebody said something mean to them online and they feel embarrassed like it shouldn’t bother them but it really does.
Ryan: Okay. So the most common types of cyberbullying is spreading rumors or harmful comments. But here’s the other thing, it can lead to anxiety and depression, sleep difficulties, it can also be related to poor school performance. And the bullies themselves tend to have more substance abuse problems, academic problems and violence. So here’s what parents can do to help. The first thing you need to do is talk about it and talk about it a lot. But don’t just get all preachy and be like, “Don’t do that stuff online. Don’t bully people,” because that’s not going to work. Best thing to do is sit down and do some role-playing with them…
Courtney: I like that.
Ryan: …where you’re the kid and let them bully you a little bit and see what your responses are like and let them switch roles back and forth. What you want to do is not give them a bunch of tools that are your words, you want them to make their own words, that way when they get involved in the situation they already know what to do.
Courtney: And sometimes, parents don’t even know what tools their kids are using that causes some of these bullying to happen that parents don’t even see.
Ryan: I got a great way to know what tools to use. So we’re going to get to that in one second, but let’s talk about the younger kids. A lot of younger kids are getting… here’s the thing, when I was in school, knowing who was the most popular in class was always kind of important to me. Well, now you’ve got like sort of a social barometer on Facebook. You know instantly who’s the most popular, who’s being made fun of, and all this other stuff. And the only way to really tell kids, “Hey, you don’t have to get your self-worth from other kids in your peer groups,” is if they have their own self-worth and their own confidence built up.
So here’s a cool app called Ziggity, and this app teaches younger children really great stuff like self confidence, how to be hard worker. This is a like a character-building app and what it does…you choose what you want them to do and then it gives them real world things to do to earn points to show them that they can build their own character, their own self-worth. So there’s another one called… this is for a little bit older, this is for… Common Sense media came up with a great one called the Digital Compass. And what this is, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure game where your character is put in different situation so you can kind of see how they handle it.
Courtney: So they role-play.
Ryan: Yeah. And then TeenSafe… this is where we talk about tools to monitor kids online. So TeenSafe has got a great little app that will allow you to monitor your kids’ texts, see where their phone is, see what their call log, see what they’re doing online and it will monitor all kinds of apps that your kids might be using and talk to other people or get bullied on. The thing about this though, is you don’t want to just install it on the sly…
Courtney:… not tell your kids.
Ryan: So what you want to do is, talk to your kids first before they get on social media, set up the profile with them, maybe hold off on setting up those social media accounts as long as you can. And then once you do, set them up together and then don’t really let them put these apps on their phone because then they can do it all in their bedroom when you’re not looking and you’re not paying attention. So, last thing, is what some kids can do in order to stop cyberbullying is, first thing is if it starts happening, just log off the site, you can block emails or messages from the person that’s doing it and save the information. But number one thing, don’t respond to it because then you’re rewarding the bully.
Courtney: All right, good tips and I’m definitely taking notes, Ryan. I appreciate it. Oh that’s good stuff. All right, moms and dads hopefully you take a notice too. Mary Ann, back over to you.
Marianne: Good stuff, Courtney. Thanks very much.