How Parents and Kids Can Learn to be Netsmart to Prevent Cyberbullying
For parents, it can seem difficult to manage the online lives of their kids. There’s a lot of different websites and social media to keep track of that parents may not know how to properly use and navigate. Parents can’t just ignore the online lives of their children and teens though. Bullying can and does exist on the Internet. Your children may experience bullying during the day in school and then at home through social media and other websites. Teaching your kids and teens to be netsmart can benefit both you and them.
What is Cyberbullying?
According to StopBullying.gov, a bullying prevention resource, cyberbullying is classified as any acts of bullying that occur in an online spectrum through the use of technology. This technology naturally includes the Internet and websites, but it also expands to:
- Cell phones
- Text messaging
- Instant messaging
- Social media
Cyberbullying is similar to bullying except that it doesn’t have to take place in a physical medium. However, cyberbullying has a lot of the same malicious intent that regular bullying does, including:
- Creating defaming videos
- Posting humiliating photos to websites or social media
- Creating fake profiles on websites or social media
- Creating and spreading rumors through social media, email, and other websites
- Sending harassing and bullying text messages
- Posting harassing and bullying posts on social media, email, and other websites
What Are the Dangers of Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can and does affect children and teens much the same way that regular bullying does. In fact, a child can experience both cyberbullying online and regular bullying during school hours, compounding their distress, according to StopBullying.gov. Otherwise, kids will experience much of the same negative effects no matter how or where they’re bullied. These include:
- Drop in self-esteem
- Reluctance to go to school
- Decrease in quality of grades
- Increase in health issues
- Increase in chances of using drugs and alcohol
What Does It Mean to Be a Netsmart Kid?
Being netsmart allows kids and teenagers to keep cyberbullying to a minimum. They can do this by following a simple formula that KidSmart.org.uk, a United Kingdom-based cyberbullying prevention source, outlines. Kids can remember this acronym easily, since it’s SMART. It breaks down to mean:
- S – Safe
- M – Meeting
- A – Accepting
- R – Reliable
- T – Tell
S for safe means that kids and teens stay safe whenever they’re online. They may have social media profiles and use the Internet for recreation, but they know better than to share personal information. They never post their home address or their phone number online. They also don’t readily give out their email address.
M for meeting means that kids and teens know better than to meet up with someone that they have met online. They know that this person may not be who they claim they are and that meeting in a private location can be very dangerous. Kids and teens also know to only meet up with someone that they met online if their parents permit it and if their parents come along.
A for accepting means that kids and teens should be limited in what kind of online contact that they accept. When they open emails, reply to instant messages or text messages or access files that a stranger sent them, they could infect their computer with a virus.
R for reliable means that kids and teens know better than to automatically assume that someone online is exactly who they say they are. They try to verify this person’s information as best they can and also try to limit online chatting, keeping it to a minimum.
Lastly, T for tell means that kids and teens know that they can talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult if they have experienced unsavory online activity. This could include strangers contacting them, someone sending them a mysterious and probably malicious file, or experiencing any kind of cyberbullying. Kids and teens should also feel comfortable talking to an adult if a friend or classmate is experiencing cyberbullying as well.
How Can Parents Learn to be Netsmart?
Parents can and should learn to be netsmart for the sake of their children and teens. If a parent is aware of what their child is doing online, this decreases the chance of cyberbullying from perpetuating. A child or teen should also feel like they can talk to their parent about cyberbullying and other online issues.
Parents can begin being netsmart today by doing the following according to NetSmartz.org, a program from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children:
- Teach your child how to block bullies on instant messaging platforms, chat rooms, social media sites, and email
- Feel free to delete your child or teen’s social media, email, or other accounts and start a new one
- Teach your child to ignore bullies that make mean remarks and comments; teach your child to delete these comments
- Contact your phone service provider or block the sender of harassing text messages
- Teach your child not to freely give out their cell phone number
- Contact your Internet service provider if a bully has made a website targeting your child and see to it that this site is removed
How Can Kids and Parents Prevent Cyberbullying Together?
Both parents and kids can prevent cyberbullying if they work together and are honest with each other. According to StopBullying.gov, the first steps in cyberbullying prevention involve learning and knowing your child or teen’s online activity. Your child or teen should openly tell you which websites they visit, who they interact with, and what kinds of activities they partake in on these sites.
Your child or teen should also freely share the passwords of their most-used websites with you. Make a pact that you’ll keep these on hand but not use them unless it’s absolutely warranted. You should also make an agreement that you can review your child or teen’s online activity if necessary.
Next, you may want to consider purchasing parental control filtering software, StopBullying.gov notes. This can track your child or teen’s online activity during the times that you can’t be there to do so. This can also block certain websites and programs that could pose a cyberbullying or dangerous threat to your kid.
You may want to set up limitations for using computers and other technology. Set guidelines regarding how often your kid can use technology, what sites they can and cannot access, and who they are allowed to speak with.
You may want to get the school involved as well. You can possibly start a cyberbullying campaign. You can speak with your school’s principal to make sure that cyberbullying measures are put into place for school computers.
Lastly, according to StopBullying.gov, make sure that your child or teen feels comfortable speaking to you in the instance that they or a classmate or friend experiences cyberbullying. Together you can work through the issue and find a means of stopping the cyberbullying. Commend your kid for telling you rather than hiding this information.