Most parents wish they could bubble wrap their children and protect them from all of life’s curve balls that will inevitably come their way. But unfortunately, this is impossible. Whether it’s fights on the playground, teen drama, or mending a broken heart, it’s hard to see your child suffer through hardships.
Parents do their best to protect their children from potential dangers and threats. However, some, such as cyberbullying, are not easy to recognize and can be seen as one of the biggest parenting challenges of this generation.
The Rise of Digital Devices
With the rise of digital devices and internet usage, cyberbullying has become bigger and more dangerous than ever. It has been linked to many mental health concerns including anxiety, depression and suicide, which can have long lasting effects on children.
Although technology use increased across the board, screen use among children were one of the most alarming. According to a Common Sense Media survey, screen use among teens and tweens increased by 17 percent from 2019-2021. Daily screen use for tweens (ages 8-12) went to five hours and 33 minutes from four hours and 44 minutes, and for teens (ages 13 to 18) it went to eight hours and 39 minutes from seven hours and 22 minutes.
Cyberbullying and Social Media
We know children love social media, however, social media and cyberbullying are closely linked. Popular social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, as well as text messages and other forms of online communication, make it easy for children to fall prey and for cyberbullies to take harmful action:
- Children tend to overshare on social media platforms, making it easy to access their personal information.
- As most of their time is spent online, particularly on social media, it makes children more vulnerable to encounter cyberbullies.
- Children care a great deal about their presence on social media, making them more offensive and responsive to negative comments. This makes children an easy target and enables cyberbullies to further engage with them.
Minimizing the Risks
While it’s easy for moms and dads to wish they could fully cut their kids off from social media and the internet altogether, realistically it does not prepare them for the future or adulthood. Here are some suggestions for protecting your kids from the effects of cyberbullies:
- Talk to your children: Often when children are victims of cyberbullying, they struggle speaking to an adult about what is going on, and typically they fear that their usage will be restricted. As parents, you need to take an active interest right from the start. Get involved, have meaningful online safety conversations, and encourage your child to confide in you.
- Ensure your child understands what bullying is: Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.
- Provide an action plan: Establishing best practices and healthy habits in case they experience bad online behaviour is important when keeping your child safe. Things such as trusting an adult when you feel upset, screenshotting cyberbully interactions, blocking a cyberbully, and reporting harmful behaviour is crucial when keeping things from getting out of hand.
- Managing technology: Netsweeper’s onGuard protects children proactively by monitoring, detecting, and alerting a safeguarding expert to activity that indicates a potential risk to a child’s wellbeing. onGuard uses active system monitoring including optical character recognition to identify user activity and then trigger an alert.
As parents, you are the example too. It’s up to you to take initiative and empower your children with confidence, both online and off. Cyberbullying can happen anywhere and anytime, equip yourselves with tools and resources to protect your child from becoming a victim.