Stay Kind Online: How to Talk to Your Kids About Cyberbullying

Cybersecurity education should be taught at home and in schools. When I say “cybersecurity training,” I mean I’m not just giving tips on using antivirus software or installing a password manager to protect your logins. Basic online safety practices are important and should be taught fully. Still, I think looking at the state of the discourse on the dominant English-speaking online social spaces shows that there is also room for education about cyberbullying and what kind of behavior falls under the term online abuse.

Children may not know when they are bullying someone

According to McAfee’s Global Connected Family study(Opens in a new window), Cyberbullying is rampant among children online. Almost a quarter of respondents, some as young as 10 years old, said they had been subjected to racist attacks online. In the United States, one in five children experience online sexual harassment.

Many of us were raised to view online interactions through the “stranger threat” lens of caution, but these survey results show that more than half of those surveyed said they had been bullied online by someone they knew. In addition, in many cases there is confusion as to who is responsible for the bullying. Fewer than one in five children say they have bullied someone online, which is not entirely consistent with the levels of cyberbullying reported in the survey.

The picture becomes clearer when you look at children’s responses to surveys about online interactions. More than half of respondents admitted to an activity that constitutes online harassment, such as B. Verbal abuse, use of racial slurs or images, threats of physical violence, or unwelcome sexual comments.

What can parents do to stop cyberbullying?

I’ve been using the internet most of my life and I can tell you that most people still haven’t perfected their online tone. Jokes often come across negatively (or not as a joke at all) if you don’t have physical cues to accompany them or are familiar with the person you’re talking to. Anonymity also encourages people online, leading to exchanges containing a little (or a lot) more heat than necessary.

It’s hard to stop your adult relatives from arguing over minor disagreements on your Facebook feed. Trying to stop your kids from bullying people online while keeping them safe from others may seem like a tall order. One expert said that educating today’s connected children requires providing consistent guidance for online interactions.

“Parents need to be more tech-savvy than their kids,” says Ross Ellis, founder of Stomp Out Bullying. “Cyberbullying can be dangerous, so it’s not a one-off conversation. Parents need to communicate openly.”

According to the McAfee survey, 80% of parents spend time educating themselves about cyberbullying. More than half of the parents in the survey say they use parental control software and talk to their children about online behavior.

Parents also need to stay abreast of specific online behavioral trends. Only one in three parents report addressing specific abusive behaviors, such as outing (disclosing someone’s sexual identity without their consent).

“I learned by watching you”

Children may not have the empathy, maturity, or wisdom to understand that their words and actions affect the real people who are bullying them online. Our future generations need to know that the adults in their lives do not condone bullying.

If you’re an adult, maybe it’s time to look at some of the tweets you send, the memes you upload, the Reddit rants you write, and the comments on the news articles you post. Whether you think you’re “just blowing off steam” or think you’re on a political crusade when your social profiles are public, your kids are likely to keep tabs on you and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Talk to kids about cyberbullying

  • Make yourself available for regular online chats with kids about their lives. Just as you would know the names of your children’s best IRL friends, you should try to find out who your children interact with online. If you take the time to talk to your kids about their relationships, both the good and the bad, you’ll be better equipped to help your child confront their specific problems in these online areas.

  • Encourage your child to keep their social media profiles private. Instagram has several parental control tools built into the app, including message restrictions and standard private accounts for users under the age of 16.

  • Educate yourself and your children in online communication and learn the art of de-escalation. Laughing at others’ expense and name calling are forms of bullying, but these behaviors can be difficult to identify as harassment among individuals in online friend groups. Talk to your children about how they choose their online acquaintances and why they shouldn’t put up with abuse from their “friends” and retaliate with more harassment. Teach them how to withdraw from heated online situations.

  • Keep an eye on your kids online with parental control software. Your children will likely spend every day of the rest of their lives interacting with people online. It’s up to you to make sure they get on the right track early on. Parental control software can show you what YouTube videos your child watches, what websites they visit, and how much time they spend looking at a screen each day.

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