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.

The U.S. is Finally Fighting the Cyberbullying Disease

bully newspaper

The faceless, sometimes even nameless, threat of cyberbullying is a modern inception that has grown exponentially withthe popularity of social networks. As these new threats arise, new policies are needed to combat them, and many of these policies have come in the form of laws intended to slow down the wave of cyberbullying.

Laws, Present and Pending

In 2011, the state of New Jersey enacted a law that makes cyberbullying an infraction that will go on a student’s permanent record. In a push for a similar law in Florida, a bill that passed the Florida Senate will make online bullying the jurisdiction of the state’s public school system, giving school officials the right to reprimand students for actions carried out online.

All in all, every state in the country, with the exception of Montana, has an anti-bullying law, according to Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patching of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

The Effects of Cyberbullying

The effects of cyberbullying are endless. A New Jersey anti-bullying law was enacted in response to a rash of suicides linked to online bullying. While this is the most extreme outcome, studies have shown that cyberbullying has the same effects as traditional bullying, making victims feel powerless and causing psychiatric disturbances that last into adulthood, according to a study by U.S.- and UK-based university researchers, published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal. Mental disorders linked to childhood bullying include panic disorders, anxiety, agoraphobia and depression.

Kids Will Be Kids or Crimes

Cyberbullying laws are up for debate. Proponents of the law claim that something must be done to protect kids online. Opponents argue that these laws go too far and don’t accomplish what they are meant to accomplish.

In New Jersey, for example, parents have appealed bullying reports on their children’s records, starting at their local school boards, but working their way into the court system, according to New Jersey Online. It’s escalations like this, opponents say, that waste public resources.

Some anti-gay politicians have taken the position that laws against bullying are just part of the “homosexual agenda,” and protect only LGBT students.

How Parents Help

The opportunity for exposure to things parents would prefer their children not to see is increasing. Directtv, a standard satellite package, has 285 channels, making it more difficult for parents to monitor what their kids see and hear. With 67 percent of all Internet users using social networks, according to Pew Research Center.

Parents do have an ability to affect the prevalence and outcome of cyberbullying. The National Crime Prevention Council offer tips for parents that include keeping your home computers in communal areas, knowing your children’s account information, reviewing their friend lists and discussing what cyberbullying is and if your children have ever experienced it.

As an advent of our new, interconnected world, cyberbullying won’t be solved quickly. Like any epidemic, it will take time for parents, schools and lawmakers to come up with the right solution. Keeping on top of their children’s online activities provides parents with the greatest opportunity to keep cyberbullying out of their children’s lives.