Your children face challenges that you never had to deal with growing up. A recent tale of cyber bullying involved Audrie Pott, a 15 year old California teenage who committed suicide after pictures of her rape circulated around social networks when her rapists uploaded them. While not all cyber bullying is taken to this kind of extreme, it’s something that is pervasive among adolescents.
According to DoSomething.org, 48% of teens have been the victim of cyber bullying, and 70% of teens have seen an example of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is a complex problem. Some states, like New Jersey, establish strict anti-bullying laws to cut down on cyber bullying. New Jersey laws, according to the NPR, include a crime-stopper hotline that accepts cyber bully reports from students, a training program to teach students the signs of bullying, and schools are rated on their level of bullying. While state and federal legislature attempts to solve the cyber bullying problem, you have several ways to help on your end.
- Educate yourself on the attack methods of cyber bullies. You might not be a texting addict or a Facebook lover, but understanding how students communicate on these services is essential to understanding how a bully can harass your child.
- Track behavioral changes in your children. A marked difference in behavior indicates some sort of problem, and may be an early warning sign of cyber bullying.
- Watch for anxiety related to answering text messages or getting on social networks. If your children is being harassed through these sites, they might be afraid to log in and check their messages.
- Talk to your child to see if they will tell you about any potential bullying activity. If possible, friend their social network accounts or have access to the accounts so you can find out what your child is doing online.
- If your children don’t want to talk to you about their online activities, using an Internet monitoring solution may be necessary. These types of software often allow you to lock down Internet usage, blocking sites and monitoring exactly what’s going on when your child uses the Internet.
Another issue with cyberbullying that many parents don’t consider is the potential for identity theft. When a student is getting cyber bullied, he may give out personal information, usernames, and passwords that could lead to his identity information being compromised. Identity theft has many repercussions according to Equifax. Your child may have credit cards taken out in their name, or have the cards sent elsewhere so they never even know they exist. This could greatly affect their credit rating. A service like Lifelock.com monitors this information and provides security measures to stop identity theft from happening.
The internet is a powerful tool, but it is also a powerful weapon in the hands of cyber bullies. While you can’t prevent your child from encountering it entirely, you do have the power to mitigate the damage that it can cause.