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For young teens using social media, cyberbullying is a surprisingly pervasive problem. According to the latest data, in fact, nearly one in five kids between the ages of 12 and 18 will be the subject of cyberbullying by their peers. So what can parents do to stop cyberbullying?
#1: Understand how your kids are using social media today
Perhaps the best starting point for parents is simply becoming more informed about how their kids are spending their time online. After all, nearly two-thirds (68%) of parents never check their children’s online activity. That means that they never take the types of simple, fundamental steps that can help to protect their kids. They may not even realize that their online friends are completely different from the friends they hang out at school.
Hopefully this doesn’t sound like fear mongering, but the more time that young kids are spending online, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong. And while a few years ago parents may have been concerned about adult strangers tracking down their kids, today’s problem involves friends, colleagues and acquaintances from school. That’s what makes it so hard to recognize.
When it comes to cyberbullying, the social media platforms of choice include Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. In some cases, this cyberbullying means releasing photos of teens in awkward social situations, calculated as a way of inflicting severe humiliation. In other cases, the cyberbullying is more passive-aggressive – simply not liking a new photo added to Instagram or not including someone in a group of friends sharing text messages can have a surprisingly strong impact on the psyche of a young teen.
So be on the lookout for changes in social behavior that might be linked to social media behavior. If your son or daughter is no longer hanging out with the same people on weekends – that might be a sure sign that something is wrong.
#2: Put into place clear social media guidelines
Just as parents of a decade ago put into place clear guidelines of TV use (no TV after 8pm on school nights!), today’s parents need to put into place clear guidelines about social media use. After all, studies now show that some teens age 13 to 18 are spending 9 hours a day online!
You can immediately see the problem here – if your teen is spending more time each day checking Facebook than sleeping, there is a problem. In addition to reducing total time spent on social media, you can also impose rules that, say, all activity must take place on a computer in a public area of the home. That will limit the temptation to engage in activities online that they shouldn’t be.
#3: Check privacy settings on social media apps
Most social media usage now takes place on the phone, so one way to limit the potential for social media abuse is simply by controlling how and where social media apps can be used. And, of course, as a corollary to this, teens should be told very directly not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know. On the Internet, you never really know who someone is – a person claiming to be a potential 15-year-old guy at an area high school might actually be a 45-year-old male creep.
The key here is establishing dialogue between kids, parents and teachers at school. All three of these groups need to be working together in order to prevent cyberbullying. If you suspect cyberbullying, be sure to document all proof – such as by taking screenshots of abusive or threatening text messages. At a time when one in five teens will face cyberbullying at school, you simply can’t afford to take any chances.
Interested in learning more about Cyberbullying? Here’s a great resource by vpnMentor.