In 2015, it was estimated that teenagers would spend approximately 9 hours a day on social media sites. This is a staggering amount of time - and it also means that it’s extra important for parents to begin, and maintain, a dialogue about what’s safe and acceptable behavior on the internet. In fact, this dialogue should begin at an early age.
We are living in a digitally-motivated world and there’s no indication that is slowing any time soon. Therefore, it’s time to ensure we prepare our kids and teens as best as we can to face the potential dangers, as well as the potential for cyberbullying. It’s critical to raise responsible digital citizens.
How Early Discussion Can Help Fight Cyberbullying
Unfortunately, you may not be able to prevent bullying or cyberbullying entirely, but you can take steps to help educate your tween or teen on how to respond to online harassment. Alternatively, you can also help to show them what appropriate behavior is and help them understand how damaging cyberbullying and harassment can be when done to another human being.
The more we can instill good habits in our children in the digital world, the more potential there is for less cruelty and more kindness and digital responsibility.
Here are some tips for educating, and monitoring, your kids on the internet.
Younger kids should be supervised online at age-appropriate sites.
We recommend establishing firm boundaries on how much time they spend on the internet, what they can and cannot do, what sites they are allowed to visit, and how much information (if any) they are allowed to share.
You can set up a family account for them to use so you can supervise them. You can also install parental controls. It’s helpful to keep the computer or other device in an open, communal area of the house such as the kitchen or family room. This will help you to keep an eye on what they might be doing. Keep in mind that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites have a rule that kids must be 13 years of age to have an account.
Encourage tweens to talk to you about what they find on the internet.
A tween may be entering a stage where they want to use portable devices on a more independent basis. Set boundaries for when and how long they are allowed to do this. Start a discussion on what sort of sites they like on the internet and what they are interested in.
Be especially vigilant in maintaining a dialogue about social sites and establish which sites they are allowed to join. If they are beginning to join social sites with their school friends, now is an excellent time to broach the subject of cyberbullying. Explain what it is, let them know it’s cruel behavior, encourage them to let you know if they ever experience anything like that. Also let them know that you expect them to be kind and respectful online.
It’s important for them to know that anything they share on the internet or a social site will remain there forever.
Keep the dialogue going with your teenager!
While it might be difficult to get your teen to share with you what’s going on in their digital world, don’t stop trying. They need to feel that you are interested and want to be involved in all aspects of their lives.
Don’t let awkward topics dissuade you from having some much-needed conversations as your teenager becomes older and more independent online. Aside from cyberbullying, it’s important to talk to your teen about pornography, sexting, and other potentially harmful digital activities. These topics are hard, but they are crucial to your child’s safety in the digital world. It is equally important for them to know that what they post online can be seen by potential employers and college admissions departments. Any distasteful posts and/or photos can result in declines from colleges and employers.
Help your teen set up privacy settings and continue to remind them about the permanence of what they share online.
Most important of all, show your kids that you trust them. Try not to be judgmental or threaten to take away their privileges or devices if something happens. If your teen doesn’t feel safe coming to you, they might only feel more isolated. By showing your trust, initiating difficult conversations, and continuing the dialogue, you will be helping to support your teen and even combat cyber dangers such as cyberbullying.
As a parent, you can help stop cyberbullying by starting a dialogue and keeping it going. Let your teens know about the STOMP Out Bullying HelpChat Line for youths 13 - 24 years of age who are being bullied, cyberbullied or are at-risk for suicide. Remember, the most important thing you can do as a parent is understand the digital world and educate them. If you are not tech savvy, how can you help your kids when they need it? Provide all of the resources you can to help your teens with anything they might be dealing with.
When the HelpChat Line is NOT available and your teens are IN CRISIS please have them contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the GLBT National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743)