While beginning in AIM chat rooms and MySpace, cyber bullying has spread to every social media platform. By definition, cyber bullying can take place on any electronic device from any platform, including text messages, social media, websites, chat rooms and forums. The computer screen provides a divide between the attacker and victim that allows the exchange of hurtful words. Cyber bullying can be extension of bullying at school or strangers trolling accounts. Either way, it should always be addressed. There are a variety of resources, many of which are provided by individual social media platforms, to prevent and report online bullying. When discussing cyber bullying it is important to remember two things:
It is never the victim’s fault.
The victim is never alone.
How to Stop Cyber Bullying on Social Media
1) Do not respond to the bully. Instead, save screenshots and print these pictures as evidence of the attack.
2) Report the attack to the social media platform:
3) Block the user.
4) Tell someone. Never carry this burden alone.
*If it is a threat, get the police involved. They have the resources to readily support you and identify the attacker.
If the bullying continues, stay focused on your emotional and physical safety. Continue following these steps and speaking with friends or even professionals about your experience. The Internet will never be a completely safe place, but you and your support system can stay committed to creating a better environment for your online activity through privacy settings and reports.
Preventing Cyber Bullying with Your Child
You may want to “friend” or “follow” your children on social media, but they might feel hesitant and worry about embarrassment (like photo comments). If you don’t want to force your child into sharing their profiles with you, ask an older sibling, cousin, babysitter or aunt/uncle to monitor the website.
These trusted (and perhaps “cooler” in your child’s eyes) individuals can monitor on your child’s profile and activity. If these family members or close friends are more familiar with social media platforms than you, they may be checking online behavior more regularly and attentively anyway.
Recruit adults (or responsible high schoolers) that will take this role seriously. Review what kind of behavior you’re on the look out for and ask for updates.
Have a conversation
Prevention always starts with education. Approach the conversation in two ways:
1) First, tell your child that if he/she is a victim of cyber bullying, you want them to talk to you. Do not make any promises on actions (“I promise I won’t tell their parents) because you do not know what the future could bring. Just simply state that you are always their first resource if they need any help.
2) There’s also the chance that your child could be a cyber bully. In this case, there is something your child is struggling with that either you or another trustworthy adult can help with. Bring up this possibility and say, “If you find yourself saying anything hurtful online- even if you think it’s a joke- I also need you to stop and talk to me.” Keep the conversation serious, but remember that you will need to be approachable about this matter in the future.
Understand Your Child’s Online Habits
You should stay updated on what type of accounts your child has. Emphasize that your child should only “friend” and “follow” people they are close with in real life. Every account should be set on private and abide by each social media platform’s age limits.
Establish Online Rules with your Child
1) They cannot have a social media account without your knowledge. Either you or another trusted person can monitor these sites and approach your child with questions.
2) Set boundaries like privacy limits or parental controls. Do this together so there is a clear understanding of expectations.
3) Your child cannot message/post, share or like/favorite anything that could hurt another person’s feelings. The standards you have for your child in real world exist in the digital world as well.
To learn more about defining, understanding, preventing and reporting cyber bullying, visit: http://www.stopbullying.gov.