Teens Online: Keeping Your Child Safe from Cyberbullying
posted by: Amber Johnson
It happened: social media has become one of the main sources of communication around the world, and our tweens and teens are its biggest users and abusers. In fact, 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly” and 92 percent say they go online daily.
I recently attended the Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Social Summit on Cyberbullying where experts answered questions about how to talk to kids of all ages about cyberbullying and coping strategies for when your child is affected by this issue. A notable panelist was Kristy Arellano, mother to Kiana Arellano for whom Colorado’s recently passed cyberbullying legislation was named. Kiana was a beautiful, popular sophomore cheerleader who was so severely bullied online that she nearly died after attempting suicide. Today, she is wheelchair-bound with a severe brain injury. (See her heartbreaking story here).
Kiana’s Law took effect in July 2015 and it makes cyber bullying a misdemeanor form of harassment, punishable by a fine of up to $750 and/or up to six months in jail.
Go to the Children’s Hospital Colorado’s website for advice on how to tell if your child is experiencing cyberbullying, how parents can help, and what to do if your child is the bully. Aimee of Greeblehaus was a panelist at the summit; be sure to check-our her Cell Phone Contract for Teens and Online Safety Tips.
Please join us in welcoming guest blogger Amy Williams, a mom of two who is passionate about keeping kids safe online.
As a mother of two, it amazes me the increasing amount of online interaction allows teens to experience and witness cyberbullying at astounding rates. To understand the magnitude of cyberbullying, I ask parents to take a close look at typical teen online behaviors and how children are utilizing the Internet. Cyberbullying is a community issue; it takes parents, teachers, and children to fight it. My purpose with sharing this information is to empower parents and give them the tools necessary to protect their children from any online dangers.
Keep in mind: the Internet isn’t going anywhere, and our reliance on it is as a species is only going to continue to increase. Instead of restriction, we need to teach action and responsibility.
Today’s teens have come of age in a world that has been bombarded by the oversharing of intimate details from everyone’s daily lives. This openness makes teens stand out as easy targets for cyberbullying and predators. In general, teens are less concerned about privacy settings and protecting their personal information than adults. Social media, in turn, promotes a “gang” mentality where peers like and agree with nasty comments. The victim notices the growing amount of likes the cyberbully receives and starts to believe that everyone agrees with the rude comments. It can evolve into a “me” against “them” illusion.
Luckily, parents are not defenseless in the ocean of online and Social Media predators. Parents can be involved with their children’s technology and create an open line of communication. By utilizing the information about teens and technology they can encourage sons and daughters to talk about situations, comments, or issues they are exposed to online or through text messaging.
Parents can even install apps that allow access to a teen’s data and activity. This will allow an intimate view of how a child functions in the virtual word. In cases of cyberbullying, this can be a lifesaving measure. Parents will gain firsthand knowledge of snide comments and threats being flung toward their child. If a parent can stay on top of the situation, tragic outcomes like suicide could be avoided.
In a world where face to face interactions are few and far between, it is important to understand exactly what activities a teen is participating in online. Teens are lacking the foresight and experience to understand the dangers lurking on their Smartphones or the Internet.
A teen’s naive outlook conjures up a variety of frightening cyberbullying scenarios that race around a parent’s imagination. Therefore, it is vital for parents of connected teens to communicate and seek ways to be involved. Parents need to be proactive and take the necessary precautions to prevent cyberbullying.
The following information sheds light on how teens are using the Internet, their risky behaviors, the prevalence of cyberbullying, and strategies for parents to help.
Amy Williams is a freelance journalist and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.