Back-to-School Season: Tips to Prevent Cyberbullying

little-girl-computerAs your kids head back to school, they will make new friends, reconnect with old friends, and possibly encounter cyberbullies, bullies who use technology (computers, cell phones) to belittle, attack, and harass other kids.  Parents.com reached out to Marian Merritt, a tech-savvy mother of three and Internet Safety Advocate and advisor for Norton, the anti-virus software company, for tips on how parents can prevent and deal with cyberbullying.  Marian is also the author of Norton’s “Family Online Safety Guide,” a free guide on how to protect children online, and the Editor-in-Chief of Norton’s Family Resource website, which offers free tips about Internet security.  Read her advice below.

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Although most parents worry about strangers approaching their kids online, the most common online danger to befall kids is cyberbullying. It’s common for 20% of kids to experience some form of online harassment and receive hateful, insulting messages from social networks, emails, instant messages, and videos. Cyberbullying is very painful for anyone to experience and just responding to a mean email with another verbal volley can also turn the victim into a cyberbully and escalate the cyberbullying and. Find information cyberbullying at www.stopbullying.gov and www.cyberbullying.us.

Preventing Cyberbullying

1- Ask if your school’s bullying policy includes an online bullying policy.

2- Talk to your kids about remaining nice and courteous when they’re talking to others online, even if they can’t see them on the computer via a webcam.

3- Explain that even if you type nice things on the computer, someone else can change what you type so it says something different. Role play how that would make him feel if this happens.

4- When they finish using the computer (at school, at a friend’s house, or at home), always be sure to log out. This will prevent anyone from posting anything online, especially on a social network, even if it’s just a “joke.”

5- Tell your kids to never share log-in and password information, not even with a close friend.  If they did, make sure to change the information immediately.

Dealing with Cyberbullying

1- Teach your child not to respond directly or immediately to cyberbully attacks.  Instead…

2- Keep a copy of all the messages sent on a computer or over a mobile phone.  If they include threats of harassment and violence, report the cyberbully to appropriate sources such as the webmaster (if the messages are on a public website) and/or school teachers and administrators.  Be sure to follow up in person and ask for a written plan on how your child’s school will respond to the problem. Most states have laws against this form of abuse and schools have an obligation to address the issue when made aware of the problem. The local police can also help if the dangers are immediate.

3- Make sure your child knows they can talk to you about his feelings. Cyberbullying is an incredibly painful experience and often it’s hard to know which children should feel comfortable confiding in you for support and help.

More About Cyberbullying on Parents.com

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  1. by William Crabtree

    On September 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I would add that as a parent you try very hard not to take away the computer/etc…because of cyberbullying. If you do, that’s a slam dunk way of cutting off good communication between your child. It’s a very poor knee jerk reaction that most parents have when this happens.

    That being said, thanks for sharing the strategies…they’re useful.