REALITY CHECK: Did you know that 30 percent of girls who have gone into online chat roooms say they have been sexually harassed, but only 7 percent of those girls say they told their mothers or fathers about the incidents immediately?
That disturbing finding comes from the Girl Scout Research Institute survey “What Girls Say,” and it’s just another warning that cyberbullying is impacting our children on a number of different levels. Beware: Cyberbullying can be covert, vicious gossip, extortion, or sexual (as well as more) and some of the worse offenders are NOT adults but our children’s peers.
As school starts up again this year, please become “techo savvy” about the dangers of cyberbullying. Here are a few tips:
1. Know your technology. The majority of safety nets are already part of your software. Spend a few extra minutes getting to know what is already available on your system.
2. Have the “media talk.” Sit down with your kids and clearly spell out how that computer is to be used – and the consequences if it is not used properly (Hint: Pull the plug! If you can’t use it properly, you lose the privilege.)
3. Monitor your computer. Most law enforcement officers encourage you to keep your computer in a family space where you can periodically view who your child is “talking” to. Beware that many cell phones have instant access to the web. Does your child really need that access which only increases risk factors? Consider a basic cell phone only (no camera either!)
4. Check your child’s IM list. Only kids your child really is friends with – or those you know – or at least your child talks to on the phone- should be on that list.
5. Know your child’s usernamer and password. Don’t let “privacy” throw you off. You wouldn’t let your child do drugs in his bedroom. You wouldn’t let your younger child swim without supervision. Make sure you know the sites your child frequents (you can pull down a menu that allows you to see the sites). Also make sure your child is not being victimized. I’m not suggesting you do this 24/7 – but periodically do check-in with your child’s “cyberworld” – and let your child know you plan to.
6. Set clear standards about cell phone use. Photo images of kids in compromising situations (such as undressing in locker rooms) are being posted on websites by kids. Vicious rumors are being spread via cell phone and text messages. Be clear with your child as to the propoer way to use technology. Even better – don’t let your child have a cell phone with a camera.
7. Google your child’s name. Seriously. Periodically do a google search with your child’s name in quotation marks. Are postings coming up? If so, what type? It’s just a bit of security to help you know what/if anything is being said about your child online.
Intentionally causing another child pain is bullying and should never be tolerated.
Let’s make sure this year’s school year is safe both in school and in cyberspace.
This article is excerpted from Michele Borba’s book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Jossey-Bass) available for order now:
Follow Michele on twitter @micheleborba or on her daily blog at https://www.micheleborba.com