The summer months can be tough on kids. There’s more time during the day and much of that extra time gets spent online scrolling, surfing, liking, and snap chatting with peers. Unfortunately, with more time, comes more opportunity for interactions between peers to become strained even to the point of bullying.
Can parents stop their kids from being cyberbullying completely? Not likely. However, if our sensors are up, we may be able to help our kids minimize both conflicts online and instances of cyberbullying should they arise.
Summer can be a time when a child’s more prone to feelings of exclusion and depression relative to the amount of time he or she spends online. Watching friends take trips together, go to parties, hang out at the pool, can be a lot on a child’s emotions. As much as you can, try to stay aware of your child’s demeanor and attitude over the summer months. If you need help balancing their online time, you’ve come to the right place.
Steer Clear of Summer Cyberbullies
- Avoid risky apps. Apps like ask.fm that allow outsiders to ask a user any question anonymously should be off limits to kids. Kik Messenger and Yik Yak are also risky apps. Users have a degree of anonymity with these kinds of apps because they have usernames instead of real names and they can easily connect with profiles that could be (and often are) fake. Officials have linked all of these apps to multiple cyberbullying and even suicide cases.
- Monitor gaming communities. Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer and in a competitive environment, so can cyberbullying. Listen in on the tone of the conversations, the language, and keep tabs on your child’s demeanor. For your child’s physical and emotional health, make every effort to help him or her balance summer gaming time.
- Make profiles and photos private. By refusing to use privacy settings (and some kids do resist), a child’s profile is open to anyone and everyone, which increases the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated. Require kids under 18 to make all social profiles private. By doing this, you limit online circles to known friends and reduces the possibility of cyberbullying.
- Don’t ask peers for a “rank” or a “like.” The online culture for teens is very different than that of adults. Kids will be straightforward in asking people to “like” or “rank” a photo of them and attach the hashtag #TBH (to be honest) in hopes of affirmation. Talk to your kids about the risk in doing this and the negative comments that may follow. Remind them often of how much they mean to you and the people who truly know them and love them.
- Balance = health. Summer means getting intentional about balance with devices. Stepping away from devices for a set time can help that goal. Establish ground rules for the summer months, which might include additional monitoring and a device curfew.
Know the signs of cyberbullying. And, if your child is being bullied, remember these things:
1) Never tell a child to ignore the bullying. 2) Never blame a child for being bullied. Even if he or she made poor decisions or aggravated the bullying, no one ever deserves to be bullied. 3) As angry as you may be that someone is bullying your child, do not encourage your child to physically fight back. 4) If you can identify the bully, consider talking with the child’s parents.
Technology has catapulted parents into arenas — like cyberbullying — few of us could have anticipated. So, the challenge remains: Stay informed and keep talking to your kids, parents, because they need you more than ever as their digital landscape evolves.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).