As schools across Maryland have delayed re-opening, children will be spending many hours of their day behind a screen. Cyberbullying was on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress caused by social isolation can create unique circumstances for some children to vent their frustration on line—and classmates become a target.
Today’s technological advances have become a critical part of modern communication and information sharing. Like all necessary tools, children must be taught to use technology in both positive and socially appropriate ways. Teaching children to use technology appropriately often involves parent and other caregiver efforts to set limits and provide proper supervision to ensure a safe and rewarding internet experience for their children. Unfortunately, many parents and other caregivers find it difficult to be proactive about their children’s internet usage and do not spot problems with cyberbullying until they become a major issue.
Because children tend to hide their internet activities, parents are often the last to discover issues with cyberbullying. Here are some tips that can help parents, caregivers, and even children be proactive when it comes to preventing cyberbullying in schools and in their communities:
Learn How to Use the Technology
Becoming familiar with the same social media apps and communication devices your child uses is an essential step in helping to prevent cyberbullying. Have your child walk you through how to use social media services like Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Snapchat so when they come to you with an issue related to interactions on these sites you can understand them. In addition, learn about the various parental control functions that are offered on their cell phone or computer devices.
Set Reasonable Limits
Treat cell phone, tablet, and laptop use as a privilege, the same as way you would regulate the use of a desktop PC. Try to prevent your child from spending hours at a time on these devices, and let them know that these devices should mainly be serving an educational and entertainment purpose.
Learn Who Their Online Friends Are
Making “friends” online is fast and easy, but you must help your children learn the difference between a real friend and a friendly stranger. Monitor their virtual friendships with questions you would ask about their friends in the physical world (“How’s your friend David doing?”, “Do you still talk to your friend Sara?”). In addition, urge your children never to disclose any information that would reveal who they are, where they live, or where they go to school. Instruct them never to arrange to meet online-only friends in person.
If You Suspect Cyberbullying, Talk With Your Child
As we all know, not every child enjoys napping; many would much rather climb out of bed and wander around the house during nap time. When this occurs, be firm with your child and remind them that “nap time” is for napping. When tChanges in your child’s behavior and attitudes can signal that they are being bullied at school or online. Victimized children are more likely to have difficulty sleeping, headaches, nervousness, stomach aches, and make excuses to avoid going to school. Kids are usually reluctant to tell anyone about problems with their peers, and fear losing internet privileges if they report being cyberbullied. You must ensure they feel confident that they can tell you anything and that you are there to help them and not judge them. We must teach our children that no one has the right to hurt another person, with words or otherwise.