How to avoid bullying and predators online

 

Today, for many children and most teenagers, going online is a normal part of everyday life. In fact, if you asked your teen whether they would rather give up television or internet, they’d probably willfully let go of the TV.

With so many young people choosing to spend time online, internet safety and responsibility have become vital topics for parents to discuss with their children. In this blog we’ll focus on tips for teaching children how to avoid cyberbullying and online predators.

For other tips and suggestions about internet safety, please see previous posts from this series such as: Setting Online Boundries for Middle School Kids, and Safe Online Tools for Kids.

Just like any safety topic, communicating openly and honestly is key—especially for older children and teens. Here are a few discussion points to cover.

The Anonymous Factor

Remind your child that people can pretend to be whomever they want online. It’s easy to create fake profiles. Because of that, it’s vital for kids to make sure they really know each of the people they choose to be “friends” with on social networks. Remind them that while a person they meet online might seem like a nice person, there is no way to know who they really are.

Secondly, tell your child that people often feel more comfortable saying things online that they would never say in person. Sometimes that looks like saying things that are too personal and sometimes it even looks like being mean, rude or aggressive. Because of this, it’s possible that even people they know from school or other activities may choose to bully them online. Tell your child that if this happens to them, it is a good idea to tell a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher or school counselor and to report the friend to the website administrator.

What to Share?

This is also a good time to discuss what is appropriate to share online. Remind them that things posted on the internet can be shared with anyone. Ask your child what types of things they think are okay to talk about or share on the internet and what topics should be kept private. Teach them to ask themselves, “Would I be comfortable saying this in person?” and “Would I be okay if tomorrow everyone at school or work knew about this?” Asking these questions will help your teen to think critically about what he or she shares.

Ignore—Don’t React

Reacting in anger or frustration can often create more tension and even a greater possibility of continued bullying. Therefore, instead of responding to a bully’s post, message, etc., remind your child to just delete the offensive message and to consider blocking or deleting the friend online.

Keep Talking

Finally, leave the conversation open. Let your child know that it’s always okay to talk about something that makes them uncomfortable online. Whether its hurtful behavior or words, or unwanted communication from a stranger, they should feel comfortable talking with a trusted adult and using the correct reporting services (such as reporting abusive behavior to a social networking site).

For more resources about cyberbullying and online predators, please visit: ncpc.org , stopcyberbullying.org, or netsmartz.org.

Have you talked with your children about cyberbullying and online predators? If so, how did it go? Do you have any additional tips for other parents?

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