Bullies don’t just hang out on the playground. Today they linger online. Increasingly, these tormenters enter our lives through the many doors left open in the digital world. In addition to dealing with bullies face-to-face at school or in the community, now we may face “cyber-bullies” any time we turn on our computers or access our mobile devices.
The proliferation of smartphones and texting as well as online social spheres like Facebook and Twitter have given bullies more ways to reach into our lives. Within seconds, anyone can send a cruel text or post a hurtful image online for the world to see. We have to start protecting ourselves and our family members from this type of destructive behavior. Here are a few ways to get started:
Set an example. Start at home by discussing the dangers of posting or passing on mean messages or images, even when something seems like a joke. Teach children and teens a simple adage: When in doubt, don’t pass it about.
Open communication. Make sure children feel comfortable coming to an adult to report any form of cyber-bullying they witness or to ask questions they might have about what actually constitutes cyber-bullying.
Supervise screen time. Stay involved by supervising your children’s online time. Limit daily screen sessions or create a common area where it’s easier to monitor Internet use.
Stand up for yourself. Even though it happens online, cyber-bullying is just as real. Encourage family members and friends to take threats seriously and stand up for themselves by telling bullies to stop immediately.
Practice online etiquette. Start teaching your children simple ways to behave appropriately online, such as keeping passwords and personal information private.
Delete, don’t open. Whenever you are suspicious about an email message, it’s best to delete it before you open it. Don’t let curiosity override common sense.
Block the bullies. There are plenty of programs that can help block dangerous communication on computers. Use the cyber-bully’s own weapon to fight back: technology.
Cyber-bullies are only as powerful as the tools they use. The more you know about how to navigate and protect yourself and your loved ones in the digital space, the more effective you can be in stopping bad behavior online.