5 Ways to Protect Your Kids From Online Bullying

Man subject to cyber bullyingYour 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Making the Distinction Between Self-Esteem and Selfish Esteem

This issue is well articulated by Jon Siebels, the Guitarist of Eve 6, in his blog on the Huffington Post, “School Bullying: To End It, We Must Change Our Culture”.

“When I think of bullies,” Siegel writes, “the first thing that comes to my mind is that a bully is someone who is overcompensating for low self-esteem or self-worth; however, studies have suggested that the opposite is true.”

“In the corporate world people throw their fellow employees under the bus to get a promotion, and at our schools kids harass each other for being different”

In the ’80s and ’90s there was a big push for parents to promote self-esteem in their kids. Have we taken this too far? Are we teaching our kids that believing in oneself has to come at the expense of belittling others? Is this what they are learning by the way that we treat others?

“Dictionary.com has two definitions of ‘self-esteem.’ The first is ‘respect for or a favorable opinion of oneself,’ and the second is ‘an unduly high opinion of oneself; vanity,’ he observes.

“The second definition seems to be the more accurate one today. The term should probably be changed to ‘selfish-esteem.’ ”

“We’ll do whatever it takes to make ourselves appear in a more favorable light. Just take a look at message boards across the net. There is an unbelievable amount of hate being posted on these sites. In our political races the candidate who wins is the one who makes his opponent look the worst. In professional sports, teams are dominated by one or two power players. In the corporate world people throw their fellow employees under the bus to get a promotion, and at our schools kids harass each other for being different,” Siebels notes.

Instill self-esteem, but also make your children aware of the dangers of letting their real sense of self worth get knocked out of the way by too much selfish ambition.

Bobby Kipper and Bud Ramey have co-authored two books and numerous articles on the crisis in youth violence plaguing our culture, addressing “best practices” for making a difference in the gang crisis and bullying epidemic that is impacting an entire generation. Over 4,400 young people committed suicide last year, largely due to the bullying epidemic. Their books, No BULLIES : Solutions for Saving Our Children from Today’s Bully and No COLORS : 100 Ways to Stop Gangs from Taking Away Our Communities, offer advocacy for at-risk youth.

Bobby Kipper, Director and Founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, is a career law enforcement officer with extensive experience in the area of preventing youth and community violence nationwide. His background includes working on a number of key national initiatives with the White House, Congress, and the Department of Justice.

Bud Ramey is the 2010 Public Affairs Silver Anvil Award winner of the Public Relations Society of America—the highest public affairs recognition in the world. His grassroots public affairs and humanitarian successes and advocacy for at-risk youth stretch across three decades.