As parents our instinct to protect our children is a force that can only be compared to that of a large-scale natural disaster. We would do anything to keep them safe from the many dangers of the world, but the threats are always changing and evolving. In order to continue protecting today’s youth we must evolve as well.
Cyberbullying, a threat so new even my spell check doesn’t recognize it, is becoming increasingly popular for younger children. According to Parents Magazine children as young as 11 are at risk. Other sites say that the concern starts even earlier, at age 9.
So how is a parent supposed to protect their child? There are two steps that are crucial to stopping these new-age bullies in their tracks.
Encourage Open Communication
Far too many cases of cyber bullying go unreported because the victim is too afraid to tell their parents. They fear there parents will overreact and embarrass them or that the bully will elevate their harassment as revenge.
It is also important to understand that in most cases children switch roles between a victim and a cyberbully several times during an incident. They do this in an attempt to defend themselves without involving anyone else. By encouraging open communication with your children and letting them know the potential consequences of reciprocation you are best positioned to protect your child.
Know Your Rights
Once you know about the problem you must react quickly and put an end to it right away. Start small, but if the bully continues to escalate, your response must escalate as well.
- Tell the bully in no uncertain terms not to contact your child again.The bully does not have to know that your child told you about the abuse. You can make it appear as if you found the evidence on your own if it makes your child feel more comfortable. Be sure to keep printed and electronic records from this point forward.
- Contact the site in which the attacks took place.Most of the popular social networking sites have polices against the harassment of other users. They will warn the offender and if they behavior continues, suspend the account.
- Contact the Bully’s ISP.The easiest way to find this is by contacting your own ISP. As long as you have been keeping detailed records they should be able to track this for you. Like social media sites, most ISP’s have policy’s against harassment. They will suspend the account of anyone who violates there terms and conditions.
- Contact Law Enforcement ImmediatelyIf your child’s personal contact information has been published anywhere or physical threats have been made. At this point it is more than emotional damage that is at risk.
By keeping the lines of communication open between your child and yourself and being aware of your rights, you can keep your children safe from the most current threats to their emotional and physical well being.