Cyberbullying: Keeping Your Kids Safe

In a national survey, about 16 percent of high school students reported that they had been electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the study. Cyberbullying, like its old-fashioned counterpart, feeds anxiety and depression.

Today’s virtual world of bullying can mean sending cruel or threatening messages or pictures via texting, instant messaging, or other platforms, or posting embarrassing information in chat rooms, on social media, or other websites. A cyberbully might pretend to be someone else to make a peer look bad.

What Makes Cyberbullying so Toxic

Cyberbullying can be even crueler than the old-fashioned variety. Bullies can’t see their victim’s reactions to tell when they’ve crossed the line from teasing to torment. Cyberbullying can occur anywhere and anytime, making targets feel vulnerable day and night.

Harmful messages and pictures travel at heartbreaking speed. And they can spread anonymously. In one study of more than 3,500 middle-school students published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, almost half the targets didn’t even know who had been bullying them.

How to Cool Cyberbullying

Kids who are bullied may hesitate to tell their parents because they’re afraid to lose their computers, smartphones, and other devices. To keep your youngsters from becoming cyber-targets or bullies:

  • Set rules about how to properly use computers, cell phones, and other technology.

  • Consider installing a parental monitoring program on your computer to manage online habits.

  • Keep evidence of cyberbullying by saving the screenshot, email, or text message. This can be used to report cyberbullying to web and cell phone service providers.

  • Call the police if a cyberbully threatens violence.

  • In addition, discuss these rules with your kids:

  • Don’t send messages online that you wouldn’t say in person.

  • Don’t respond to hurtful messages. Remove the sender from your friends list, block them, and tell a trusted adult.

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