Cyberbullies are taking advantage of technology to harass our loved ones. Kids can be particularly vulnerable when they have unfettered access and inadequate supervision. As parents and mentors, we can take the following steps to protect them from cyberbullying:
1. Reinforce Good Online Habits
Kids of all ages access the internet. It is best to begin teaching them early. Guiding them what to do and what not to do will help keep them safe from online predatory behavior including cyberbullying.
- Stranger danger exists online too. Kids should know that people on the internet can hide who they really are.
- Data and pictures uploaded to the internet are permanent, even when deleted. Be cautious of oversharing.
- Kids should be encouraged to immediately notify their parents if someone tries to entice or bully them to transmit pictures, especially when they are inappropriate.
- Predators will troll “kid-themed” sites and pose as children or characters to connect. Not everyone on the internet is who they say they are.
- Be kind and respectful. Don’t accept anything less from someone else online.
- Kids should know to keep their passwords private, and never allow someone to have access to their device.
2. Establish Open Communication
As a parent, one of the toughest things to do is to balance privacy and security. Having open communication about who your kids are interacting with on the internet is critical to protecting them from harm. Work with them from an early age to teach them about the perils and promise of the internet.
3. Monitor for Warning Signs
Net Nanny has compiled 10 warning signs that we find helpful. Sudden changes in behavior to include:
- Sudden, unexplained drops in school grades.
- Reluctance to go to school or outside.
- Upset or frustrated after online time.
- Secrecy about online accounts or activity.
- Unexplained changes in weight or health.
- Trouble sleeping at night or unusually tired during the day.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activity that was once enjoyable.
- Antisocial or depressive behavior.
- Isolation from family members or friends.
- Suicidal thoughts, threats or attempts.
Seek out professional help immediately for any suicidal indicators.
4. Document and Report Cyberbullying
In Florida, cyberbullying is a chargeable crime under the stalking law (FSS 784.048) but clearly regulated by FSS 1006.147. (For legal advice, seek an attorney. We do not provide legal counsel.) Evidence must be collected in order to maximize the possibility of a successful prosecution. As a result, notify authorities as early as possible and follow their guidance to collect and preserve evidence.