Cyberbullying on the Rise
We’ve all heard about online bullying, but what exactly can parents do to prevent or stop it from happening to their own kids?
It’s a real concern and from what I’ve seen lately, it appears that incidents of online bullying are on the increase. A few years ago, it was estimated that around one in five kids were victims of cyberbullying - the latest figures I’ve seen revealed that more than 40 percent of young people have been bullied online and that it has happened more than once to nearly one out of four kids surveyed.
More than two-thirds of students report having often seen bullying online. More than two-thirds of kids also believe it is a serious problem.
Most Victims Remain Silent
Sadly, it’s estimated that only one out of ten victims will tell their parents or other concerned adults about the problem. Although some kids may be able to ignore or stop bullying when it happens to them, others are more vulnerable. It happens more often to girls than boys, and the results can be tragic.
Young people who have been bullied are more likely to commit suicide. One in five victims of cyberbullying consider suicide - one in ten attempt it.
Strategies for Parents
Bullies have always been around and some kids are better at dealing with it than others. If a child has a healthy amount of self-confidence and a network of supportive friends, he or she may be able to handle the situation more easily than an isolated or introverted kid.
It seems that the vulnerable kids are often the very ones who are singled out by bullies - they are easier targets, presumably.
Online bullying can be particularly traumatic to the victims because of how far and how fast information can be transmitted over the web. Lies, embarrassing truths, compromising photos or videos - all can be instantly spread far and wide among networks of friends, peers, classmates and others who happen to be linked online.
The results can be devastating to a teen, especially one who lacks confidence. Parents should encourage the development of self-confidence in every way possible and help their kids learn how to handle bullies.
But it’s also important to have a window into your child’s day-to-day world.
Encourage your children to talk about their daily lives, let them know you are willing to listen. Ask them about bullying and whether it has ever happened to them.
But all your efforts towards protecting your kids may not prevent them from being bullied. Asking questions may not be enough to find out the true nature of your child’s online interactions.
The only truly effective way to closely follow a children’s online activity is through the installation of a monitoring app on the device they use to connect to the web, typically a smartphone.
Four out of five teens use smartphones for the majority of their online activities, and smartphones are where most cyberbullying incidents occur.
Monitoring software reveals the content of a child’s social media interactions, their chatting history, their shared photos, videos and texts - if bullying is taking place, social media and chat platforms are where you’ll likely find it.
Some parents choose to let their children know that a monitoring app is being used, others prefer to keep it a secret.
If there is a reason to believe a child may be hiding something, stealth monitoring may be the best approach. On the other hand, if a young person is generally trustworthy and has good communication with his or her parents, there may be no need to hide the fact that a monitoring app is to be installed.
Many kids are able to understand the need for a parent to occasionally observe their online communications. It’s the modern equivalent of a parent occasionally sticking their head in the door when a child’s friends are sleeping over - just to keep an eye on things.
And that’s the point - parents have the right and responsibility to “stick their heads in the door” in their children’s digital world every now and then. To not do so is, in a sense, leaving a child unsupervised in what can be a very dangerous place.
It’s important to let children enjoy a measure of privacy and freedom, but it’s just as crucial to monitor their social environment and protect them from threats they may not be able to recognize or handle on their own.
So the question becomes, for most responsible parents these days, not whether a monitoring app should be installed but rather how it will be used. With or without the child’s knowledge? How often and how much? That’s up to the individual parent to decide, but to leave a child’s online communication totally unmonitored is asking for trouble and, it could be argued, is essentially neglectful.