We are already seeing back to school advertisements for school clothes and supplies. The majority of children are looking forward to going back to school in September to renew their friendships and participate in sports and other activities. Some students however are dreading the thought of returning to school. These are the children that for whatever the reason are targets for the school bullies and mean girls. The problem of bullying has only grown in prevalence with social media and mobile data devices like smartphones and tablets. There is even a term now for tormenting others via social media: cyber-bullying. What is so difficult about cyber-bullying is that instead of a child being subjected to bullying at school, the child can now be subjected to bullying 24 hours a day each and every day. Cyber-bullying can be an extension of physical bullying, dating violence, harassment, and stalking. and can happen in the comfort of the victim’s home taking away their feeling of safety. Cyber-bullying is so prevalent that 43 percent of teens according to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) have been victims of cyber-bullying. The stress from being in a constant state of upset can lead to myriad of problems, including: depression, sleep issues, loss of appetite, and a feeling of anxiousness. If someone is already dealing with emotional problems, cyber-bullying has in some cases, lead to suicide.
Cyber-bullying is basically using technology devices and social media to send or post images or texts with the intention of hurting or embarrassing another person. According to the NCPC examples include:
Posting a threat or slur against someone
Posting an embarrassing video about someone on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube
Spreading a rumor about someone via text message or online.
Pretending to be someone else online in order to trick, tease, harass or spread rumors about another person.
Threatening someone through a live streaming gaming system such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.
Sending or forwarding private messages to others.
Using another child’s login and password to post inappropriate messages or comments on social media to embarrass them.
Many parents ask me what they can do to protect their child from cyber-bullying. Since much of cyber-bullying takes place at home, it is important that parents understand the signs of cyber-bullying and are active in protecting their children.
Some of the signs of cyber-bullying in a child are:
Becomes withdrawn or shy
Shows signs of depression
Is anxious of overly stressed out
Does not want to go to school
Suddenly stops using the computer or cellular device
Changes their eating or sleeping habits
Suddenly changes friends
Starts to cyber-bully and becomes aggressive
So, how do you actively protect your child from cyber-bullying? One of the easiest ways is to keep your home computer in the busy part of the home, and make sure you know what apps your child is using on their cellular device and their screen names and passwords and inspect their phone regularly. Review their instant messaging buddy list with them and require them to include you as a contact on all of their social networking applications. Be open with your child and discuss cyber-bullying and ask if they have ever experienced it or seen it happening to one of their friends. Explain that you are here to protect them from cyber-bullying, and want them to come to you without any fear of judgment or loss of computer/cellphone privileges. Many applications such as Facebook, Snapchat, Secret, Whisper, Twitter, Instagram require your child to be 13 to create an account, however many parents have decided to ban their children from creating accounts until they are at least 17 or 18. Some parents do not allow their children to have the App Store password, so that they must be the one to approve all application downloads. In some cases, parents have not purchased data plans for their children’s phones which eliminates some of the risk of cyber-bullying. If you allow your children to utilize these applications you must stay informed and stay up to date with the latest Internet and technology trends. In any case, you must let your child know you have a zero tolerance for bullying, for them being bullied and for them bullying others and teach your child to be Cyber-safe:
Never post or share your personal information online.
Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
Teach your child if someone sends a mean or threatening message not to respond or delete it. Save it and show it to an adult.
That once your child has shown you inappropriate messages that the person or persons are blocked from continuing to send messages via the application settings. If necessary you may need to change your child’s phone number and delete your child’s social profile.
Never open emails from someone you do not know.
Make sure your child is using strict privacy setting on their social media applications.
Help other kids who are bullied online by not joining in and showing bullying messages to an adult.
Always be polite online as you are in person.
If your child is being cyber-bullied, do not delay in consulting a counselor, the school administration and the authorities. Many schools have policies and protocols put into place regarding cyber-bullying and can also guide you to service providers that assist victims. Your school district should:
Implement and enforce an anti-bullying and cyber-bullying policy. The policy should spell out the behaviors that will not be tolerated and consequences.
Have students sign and anti-bullying and cyber-bullying pledge.
Encourage students to come forward.
Educate the entire staff on the warning signs.
Have a conflict and resolution policy.
Created a network of social services resources.
Cyber-bullying can be a difficult issue; many parents are not familiar with the apps and did not experience this type of bullying as children. This year alone parents have been faced with learning apps such as Secret and Whisper but as parents, you must stay up to date with technology in order to have the ability to protect your child. Consider using one of the APP’s available to assist you in the monitoring such as MamaBear. MamaBear allows you to receive real-time alerts when:
Inappropriate, bullying language or any other restricted words you set are used on your child’s Instagram, Twitter or Facebook page.
A photo is uploaded to Instagram with real-time preview in your MamaBear feed.
Your child follows someone new, or someone new follows them on Instagram or Twitter.
Your child makes a new friend on Facebook.
A friend you deem restricted posts on your child’s Facebook or Instagram page.
Your child is tagged or @mentioned in a photo, message or at a location on Facebook or Instagram – See more at: http://mamabearapp.com.
Keep in mind using an APP requires you to have access, and know which social media applications your children are utilizing in order to be effective.
Other Resources to assist parents include:
Snapchat’s Guide for Parents: https://www.snapchat.com/static_files/parents.pdf
Connect Safely – An Online Safety Resource for Parents, Teens and Educators:http://www.ConnectSafely.org
Julie Van Ameyde is the owner of Simply Social Media. She puts her combined knowledge of social media platforms and best practices as a veteran business owner to work for clients in a myriad of vertical markets, including law, medicine, finance, technology, manufacturing, retail and service-based organizations. In addition, she contributes considerable time and energy to civic outreach programs, as well as community and charity groups. Contact Julie at: 248-667-8718 or firstname.lastname@example.org www.simplysocialmediallc.com
Simply Social Media is located in Northville, Michigan a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.