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Communication Skills

How to Create an Open Dialogue about Cyberbullying

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Playground bullies are finding new turf to unleash intimidation and fear to more than 40 percent of all students. That turf is hard for students to avoid once the afternoon school bell rings.

Today’s bullies are going digital. Approximately 95 percent of teens use the Internet for school and social purposes, making cyberbullying a difficult factor to avoid. Parents can utilize an effective combination of awareness, communication, education and tech-savvy to curb online harassment.

The Signs of a Cyberbullied Victim

Through the use of computers or cell phones to text, email, instant message and tweet, digital bullies can emotionally abuse victims with cruel taunts. Cyberbullying can have a deep behavioral impact. While students may elicit different emotional responses to online intimidators, the Cyberbullying Research Center says to watch for these telltale signs:

They’re nervous to receive messages via computer or phone.

They may avoid technology altogether.

They’re less social with family and friends.

They act out more frequently, especially after using the computer or phone.

They’re tight-lipped about details of online activity.

Other Risks

Students can become online victims in other ways. Understanding the basic facts about identity theft can help them avoid online vulnerabilities that compromise their financial future. According to Equifax, if children lacking credit histories start receiving pre-approved credit cards in the mail or collection notices, they may be victims of online fraud. If students encounter trouble opening a bank account or applying for a driver’s license, there’s a chance an identity thief may be wielding their Social Security information. Follow precautions and research ID theft protection, and contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if any of these anomalies occur.

If youths haven’t experienced bullying, they’ve likely witnessed it. A Pew study discovered that 88 percent of students see others use harassment on social media sites. Parents may expect their children would tell them about cyberbullying, but evidence reveals the opposite. The Kamaron Institute found that less than 20 percent of students tell their parents about witnessing online harassment because they worry it’ll affect their Internet privileges. Parents don’t have to sit on the digital sidelines. Through active communication, they can educate their kids about how to respond.

Engage in frequent conversations about what’s happening online. Casual discussions about kids’ online social activities can be great opportunities to incorporate lessons about what bullying is and how it can hurt people. This communication can also help teens feel more comfortable in approaching parents.

Demonstrate proper online etiquette. Parents can be the best guides in explaining the risks of revealing too much information regarding activities, images, interests and locations. Define information boundaries and explain how over-sharing can fuel a bully’s fire.

Brush up on technology use. A great way for parents to understand online social trends is to know how to use them. A deeper knowledge of the devices, software and social websites can help parents identify dangers faster. This can also help parents spot if their kids are hiding something about their online activity.

Encourage your children to report bullying of any kind. Parents should discuss the implications of  with their kids and why it’s better to speak up than say nothing. Familiarize yourself with anti-bullying programs or policies at your children’s school. The school may be able to recommend a course of action with law enforcement if necessary.

Source: BlueFire PR

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