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October 15, 2012

Protecting Your Children: Seven Tips for Parents to Stand Up Against Cyber Bullying

By Allison Boccamazzo, TMCnet Web Editor

Today marks the middle of National Bullying Awareness Month, and it seems quite appropriate to bring to light the pain and consequences which accompany the proliferation of bullying. While it seems rather self-explanatory, bullying occurs in all forms, but many – whether parents or children – don’t seem to understand this severity to its fullest extent.

Amidst the bullying battle, individuals of all kinds have been standing up to spread messages of strength and survival, such as the infamous and inspirational “It Gets Better” campaign, which many celebrities have been proudly partaking in. While bullying comes in all shapes and sizes, it is primarily born from the same source: experience. When one experiences or witnesses bullying, it seems to then unstoppably spread. Today’s younger generation seems to have been born with an Internet-connected device in the palm of their hand, and what better way to spread hateful messages than via a platform where you can’t be seen?

We’ve all at the very least witnessed or heard of this unique form of cruelty. The vitality of parents standing up to protect their children from partaking in and being affected by cyber bullying cannot be stressed enough. Sometimes, scouring the Internet for such things as threatening language or high frequency messages is not enough.

So if you’re a parent and you’re reading this, listen up! SafetyWeb, a leader in cloud-based online safety and provider of the SafetyWeb (News - Alert) service, a Web-based Internet monitoring service for parents, is providing seven tips for parents to go above and beyond to help keep tabs on their child’s mobile calls and text messages.

Image via Shutterstock

1.       Maintain an open door policy

Kids are often too scared to report bullying incidents, and they may feel embarrassed, frightened, and even guilty that they did something wrong. Some kids are simply too scared to tell their parents the truth for fear of their cell phone and Internet privileges being taken away.

In other words, as soon as the door closes behind them, another door opens for less appropriate and potentially life-threatening behavior. While they’re old enough to operate mobile and Internet devices, they may not be old enough to understand the impact of what seems to them like a few harmless words. 

2. Be understanding

One frightening thing is that children can also often go unheard or dismissed for being overly dramatic or known for stretching the truth. If your child comes to you in a time of crisis or need, do not ignore their attempts. Remember that words do hurt; cyber bullying can be extremely cruel and more traumatizing than in-person bullying because it not only might be anonymous, but it occurs 24/7. Your child may be truly suffering emotionally; first console them by telling them that they are not alone, and then take immediate action. 

3. Save the evidence

If things do escalate, you will need digital or hard copy records of the harassment to present to the police. This, unlike alternative or traditional forms of bullying, is one thing you can find assurance in, as there will be undeniable and detailed proof of the incidents which have occurred.

4. Know your school’s policies

Most schools are mandated by the state to have policies on bullying, harassment and violence. Find out what your school’s policies are and hold them accountable for enforcing the rules. It’s your responsibility to stay strong and unwavering in doing this.

5. Monitor communications

Learn who your child is communicating with both online and via cell phone. You needn’t worry about being overbearing or too intrusive; they are children who are still growing, learning and exploring and still living under your household. The easiest way of doing this is by using an Internet monitoring service, such as SafetyWeb. Watch closely for the warning signs that cyber bullying is continuing or becoming more frequent.

6. File a complaint

If the harassment takes place via cell phone, trace the number and contact the cell phone carrier. If the bullying occurs online, you can contact the site’s administrator or Internet service provider. This is critical in ensuring your child’s safety.

7. Consider counseling

If your child is exhibiting signs of depression or anger, consult with your family physician or a behavioral health professional for advice on further treatment. This is certainly a viable option when considering the intensity and heavy-hitting impact bullying can have on children.

Last but not least, lead by example! Consider this recent incident in which newswoman Jennifer Livingston perfectly addressed in a well-versed, poised and public response.

“The Internet has become a weapon, our schools have become a battleground, and this behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail. If you are at home and you are talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example.”



While the month of October may be half-way through, that doesn’t mean bullying awareness has to (or should ever) end. Spread the word, promote bullying awareness, and as Livingston says, “The cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”


Edited by Jamie Epstein
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