Reported incidences cyberbullying are all too common in the Digital Age. Even kindergartners have access to a world of information in the palm of their hands thanks to smartphones and other mobile devices.
While schools and communities across the nation are implementing programs to curb in-school and online harassment, prevention ultimately starts at home.
With the increase in bullycides and bullying-related illnesses over the years, parents should be aware of and engaged in their children’s online activities.
Tweens and teens may consider it snooping, but Rasheda Kamaria, Empowered Flower Girl CEO, considers it conscious parenting.
“Informed parents are better able to help their children identify safe spaces online and avoid those that are potentially harmful,” she said.
Knowing which social networks and electronic communications tools are out there and which ones your children are actively engaging in is the first step. A study from Wayne State University’s College of Nursing, which surveyed nearly 400 metro Detroit youth ages 10 to 18, found that on average, youth spend two hours a day online and send 189 text messages. Additionally, some youth reported having up to 25 email accounts.
Jemica Carter, Ph.D., who co-authored the WSU study with associate professor Feleta Wilson, Ph.D., recommends parents get tech savvy.
“Some parents are unintentionally unaware of their children’s online patterns because they may not have access to the same technology or have challenges using it. Many community organizations and libraries offer free or low-cost computer and social media training for adults,” she said. “Education is the first line of prevention.”
The following are additional tips to help parents prevent and address cyberbullying:
Ask questions. Take an active role by inquiring about your child’s relationships with peers on and off line. Most children won’t volunteer the information. Parents should ask specific, preferably open-ended questions to get their children to open up.
Host a tech-free family night. Ditch the cell phones, laptops and tablets for dinner and conversation. For some teens, talking face-to-face may seem old-fashioned but it’s a great way for families to connect. It also reduces the temptation to go online.
Be a role model. Parents are their children’s first teacher and play an important role in influencing appropriate online behavior. Parents should be conscious of what they’re posting on social networks and make an extra effort to use technology responsibly.
Overall, the entire community – parents, schools, community groups, faith-based organizations – play an important role in preventing and ending cyberbullying.