Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.
For many parents, technology can be scary, especially when it comes to what their teens are doing online.
Consider these statistics from the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children:
- 93 percent of teens ages 12-17 go online
- Of children 5 and under who use the Internet, 80 percent use it at least once a week
- Seventy-five percent of teens ages 12-17 have cell phones
- On average, texting teens ages 12-17 send and receive 1,500 text messages a month
- One in three teens ages 12-17 have experienced online harassment.
- Girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying
What can you do to protect your teens when they’re online?
Be aware of what your kids are doing online.
- Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities.
- Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior.
- Have a sense of what they do online and in text messages. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
- Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
- Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
- Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied.
It’s also important to establish rules about technology use.
- Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones or other technology. For example, be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online.
- Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted, it’s out of their control whether someone else will forward it.
- Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Should complete strangers see it? Real friends only? Friends of friends? Think about how people who aren’t friends could use it.
- Tell kids to keep their passwords safe and not share them with friends. Sharing passwords can compromise their control over their online identities and activities.