It’s hard to imagine seeing these words written about anyone, but it happens every minute online. But hopefully, Instagram users will be noticing a kinder vibe thanks to the platform’s decision to automatically delete hateful, bullying comments.
- Make profiles and photos private. By refusing to use privacy settings (and some kids do refuse), a child’s profile is open everyone, which increases the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated. We recommend that parents require kids under 18 to make all social profiles private. Private accounts limit online circles to known friends and reduce the possibility of cyberbullying.
- Avoid anonymous apps. Apps that allow anonymous accounts can be invitations to heartache. Apps like Ask.fm, that Tumblr, YikYak, and a handful of other apps should be limited. Reports have linked several of these apps to severe and even tragic cyberbullying cases.
- Tell someone. If your child does get bullied, encourage him or her to tell someone; if not you then a trusted teacher or family friend. Never tell a child to ignore the bullying or bully in return. Social media has changed the impact and consequences of bullying and in turn, how we need to respond to it.
- Look for signs of bullying. Being the target of a cyberbully creates fear, humiliation, and can lead to isolation, so your child will rarely be the first to speak up about it. So, look out for the signs your child is being bullied such as falling grades, loss of appetite, refusing to go to school, or ongoing sadness or moodiness. Be aware and willing to press in to help your child.
- Save any evidence, report abuse. Print copies of messages, texts, and photos used to threaten or intimidate. Take screen shots of posts or comments on social networks. Report abusive accounts, comments, and ongoing conflict to the social network in the Help section. If the cyberbullying includes threats, intimidation, or sexual extortion of any kind report it to the police immediately.
We certainly applaud Instagram for being the first giant social platform to put such strong anti-bullying measures in place, but we also have the everyday parenting work to do in our own homes. The best anti-bullying plan? Be available for your kids, listen a lot, communicate often, and let them know without a doubt that you have their backs.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee.
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