Unfortunately, cyberbullying has become a prevalent and emerging threat in our digital age. This type of bullying, carried out through computers and similar technologies, including cell phones, often involves harmful or intimidating comments and public posts created with malevolent intent to humiliate the victim. It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t only affect adults but is incredibly common among young people. As a result, it’s crucial to understand how to help your children navigate and mitigate this pervasive, especially now that they can leave digital footprints anywhere and encounter people with bad intentions.
The Uniqueness of Cyberbullying
One of the distinguishing factors of cyberbullying is that, unlike traditional in-person bullying, it doesn’t simply end when the bully is out of sight. Today, bullies can virtually pursue their victims everywhere through technology. This implies that bullying can transpire without the victim’s immediate consciousness, and due to the extensive reach of social media, the bullying can be witnessed by a significantly larger audience than the conventional school playground.
Bearing in mind the challenges in getting a cyberbully to cease their harmful behavior, the most effective strategy is to educate your children about safe online habits to prevent such situations from arising in the first place.
Types of Cyberbullies
Evolved from the classic schoolyard bullies of old, these cyberbullies can take various forms depending on their attack vector and intent. In fact, there are said to be four types of cyberbullies: the Vengeful Angel, the Power Hungry Cyberbully, Revenge of the Nerds/Inadvertent Cyberbully, and Mean Girls. The Vengeful Angel bullies in order to protect the weak/other victims and often takes action to protect a loved one or friend. The Power Hungry archetype, however, is just a nasty, unkind person who wants to display dominance and control over others. Then there’s the Inadvertent Cyberbully, who are usually the ones getting bullied online or in real life and are typically trying to enact some form of justice or revenge anonymously from the web. Mean Girls are the opposite – and take their online actions in order to impress a group of friends or gain social status.
Not only is there a variety in the kinds of bullies across the web, but also many types of cyberbullying techniques these meanies use to bother their victims. First and foremost, there’s harassment, which involves repeated, offensive messages sent to a victim by a bully on some type of online medium. These messages can be rude, personal, and even threatening, with one recent example emerging between two wives of professional hockey players. Similar to harassment is Flaming – an online fight conducted via emails, social media messages, chat rooms, you name it.
Then there are very targeted attacks, named Exclusion and Outing. With Exclusion, cyberbullies select one individual to single out. Exclusion is a popular method, with examples everywhere, from high students in Iowa to well-known celebrities. With Outing, these harassers share private information, photos, and videos of a single person to humiliate them online. There’s also the anonymous angle, AKA Masquerading, where a cyberbully creates a fake online identity to belittle, harass, and degrade their victim – which a nurse in New Zealand was a victim of for a whopping five years.
Cyberbullying Prevention Tips
Parents should inform their children that their online activities will be monitored using parental control software. Explaining how this software works and how it can protect them is essential. This policy should be well established before your child gets their phone or computer.
Furthermore, parents should discuss cyberbullying with their children and help them understand how it happens. This discussion should take place before your child gets their devices. Before a child gets their own digital devices, they must disclose their passwords to their parents. Parents can reassure them that these passwords will only be used during emergencies.
Setting Conditions for Device Ownership
A condition set before children get their own digital devices is that they should consent to instructions on smart online habits. Importantly, they must understand that once something is posted online, it stays there forever.
Another essential guideline for owning a device is that children should be cautious about their personal information. They should be advised not to publicly share their cell phone number and email address and should never disclose their passwords, even to close friends.
→ Dig Deeper: 8 Signs It May Be Time for Parental Controls
Role-Playing for Cyberbullying
Once your child obtains their digital devices, engaging in role-playing exercises with them is suggested. This allows parents to simulate scenarios where the child might encounter a cyberbully, teaching them appropriate responses. This exercise can also provide a safe space for your child to practice dealing with cyberbullying tactics and learn to act assertively without resorting to aggression or submission.
In this role-playing activity, parents should encourage their children to report any bullying incidents, even if it is simulated or perceived as insignificant. This activity not only cultivates resilience but also reassures children that they won’t be blamed or punished for being a victim of cyberbullying.
Maintaining Awareness of Online Activities
Parents must maintain vigilance regarding their child’s internet activities despite all preventive measures. Regular check-ins and encouraging open communication about their online experiences can create a strong bond of trust between parents and children. Assure them they can approach you without fear if they are bullied online. Encourage them to share any suspicious interactions and reassure them that they won’t be in trouble for reporting cyberbullying incidents.
If possible, try to familiarise yourself with the social media platforms that your children are using. Understanding these platforms can provide insight into their online experience and potential risks. Such knowledge can be valuable when initiating discussions about cyberbullying, providing tangible examples and relatable scenarios.
McAfee Pro Tip: Get McAfee’s parental control to safeguard your children against online threats and cyberbullying. With its features, you can actively supervise your kids’ online interactions, establish usage time restrictions, and prevent exposure to inappropriate content. This reassures you that your children can explore the online realm while enjoying a layer of protection.
Importance of Staying Updated & Educated
Cyberbullying is a complex issue that evolves with the rapid advancements of technology and social media platforms. Therefore, parents must stay updated about the latest forms of cyberbullying and the newest safety settings available on various platforms. Parents should also regularly educate themselves about digital safety and responsible internet usage and share this information with their children to boost their awareness and readiness.
Parents and children can attend webinars, workshops, and seminars about cyberbullying and online safety. Learning together provides a good bonding exercise and ensures that both parties are on the same page. Schools and local community centers often offer resources and programs for cyberbullying awareness and prevention.
→ Dig Deeper: Cyberbullying’s Impact on Both Society and Security
Next Steps for Both Parents and Kids
Typically, cyberbullying is common among teens navigating the trials and tribulations of middle and high school. But that doesn’t mean it’s exclusive to teens, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps parents and kids alike can do to stop cyberbullying in its tracks.
If you’re the subject of cyberbullying, the first thing you need to do is block the bully. Then, make sure you collect evidence – take screenshots, print the proof, and do whatever you can to have material to back up your claim. It depends on the type of cyberbullying at work, but you can also use the internet to your advantage and look up relevant resources to aid with your issue.
If you’re a parent, the most important thing is communication. Make yourself available as a resource and remind your kids that they can tell you anything happening in their online world. Beyond that, continuously weave cybersecurity into your family discussions. Remind kids of the simple steps to be safe online, and ensure they know when to flag a cyberbully or online scheme.
There are also technical avenues you can take to protect your kid online. Look into solutions that will help you monitor your family’s online interactions, such as McAfee Safe Family. This solution, for instance, can help you set rules and time limits for apps and websites and see what your kids are up to at a glance. Of course, these solutions are not the be-all and end-all for stopping cyberbullying, but they can help.
Now, there’s still a lot more research that has to be done to understand the cyberbullying problem society is faced with fully. So, as this problem continues to evolve, so must the research, solutions, and regulations that will be created to combat the issue. With the right proactive action, people everywhere can stand up to cyberbullies.
→ Dig Deeper: Cyberbullying – How Parents Can Minimize Impact On Kids
In conclusion, cyberbullying is a pressing issue that requires continuous attention and education. By teaching your children what it is and how it happens, setting up rules for responsible device usage, conducting role-play exercises together, and staying informed about their online activities, you can better equip them to navigate the digital world safely. Remember, the ultimate goal is not to control your child’s online activities but to empower them with the tools and understanding necessary to protect themselves online.
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