Bullies come in all shapes and sizes… and forms. We here at ZoneAlarm want to take a stand this October, National Bullying Prevention Month, to bring awareness to the online kind – the cyberbullies.
Cyberbullying is the act of attacking, harassing, or humiliating someone through the Internet. Unlike physical bullying, where the victim can see the face of their attackers, cyberbullying conceals the identity of those behind the Internet. Victims of cyberbullying can start to develop suspicious thoughts and begin to mistrust those around them, which can then lead to anti-social behavior and depression. And things can go downhill from there.
A staggering 5 million adolescents were the targets of cyberbullies, and close to 3 million were the ones carrying out the bullying. Unless we all take responsibility and do something about this growing problem, cyberbullying will continue to claim innocent victims.
In an effort to taking a stand against cyberbullying, we’ve listed out some actions you can take to tackle this problem directly, so you’ll be prepared if you find yourself on either end of the problem.
Start at an Early Age
It’s never too early to start talking to your kid about bullying. Teach them at an early age to treat others with respect and kindness. Stress that they should never ridicule another person for any reason; remember the Golden Rule, “Treat others how you want to be treated”. By the time your kid is old enough to start using the Internet, transitioning into the topic of cyberbullying should become easier, since they’ll already have an understanding of how to treat others.
Keep Communications Open
While it’s commendable your kid does not participate in bullying of themselves, it’s important to keep them from being the victim and know how to deal with bullying if it does happen. Keeping the lines of communication open is important, from discussing your kid’s day on a regular basis will determine if something out of the ordinary has happened. Learn to recognize mood changes, including the loss of appetite, drop in grades, or even the sudden loss of interest in socializing with other kids. If you observe any of these, make sure to address the problems they are facing immediately.
As your kid starts to use the Internet themselves, it’s a good idea to discuss what they should do if they find themselves being harassed or mistreated online. Make sure they know not to respond or retaliate against the online bullies, but to come and notify you immediately. Responding to or retaliating against cyberbullies only adds fuel to the fire and continues the attack. In some cases, cyberbullies who don’t get any response from their target give up and move on to their next one.
Bed Time is Bed Time
In one of our studies, 60 percent of these kids said that they ran into a serious problem during these late night sessions on Facebook. Limit your kid’s time online and discourage them from being active on Facebook and any other social network at night. If necessary, password-protect the computer your kid uses to ensure they aren’t able to go online at night.
Meet Their Friends
Getting to know who your kid’s friends are can help you understand their friend’s personality. After all, friends are a large influencer for youngsters, and meeting the friends can help determine whether they have a positive or negative influence on your kid.
Always Remember Privacy and Security
Adjusting privacy settings for social networks or email accounts your kid uses is one thing you can do to prevent cyberbullies from contacting them in the first place. But some cyberbullies might try to hack into your kid’s social network or email accounts and pretend to be them. Make sure the passwords to those accounts are strong to prevent unauthorized access. (Never use “password”, “1234”, iloveyou”, “qwerty”, etc. as a password) As an added security measure against unauthorized access, you can turn on two-factor authentication for your kid’s email accounts and login approval for Facebook, both of which prevent unauthorized access even if the password has been compromised.
Need more tips on ways to protecting kids online? Check out our infographic on how to keeps kids safe online.