Many of the schools in the Lehigh Valley are setting up anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying events to help children understand the harm they can do when they become bullies or make fun of other children. I see this as a beneficial step toward educating our children on the dangers of bullying, but I’m not sure that it’s sinking in with everyone, especially the bullies. An article in the news about a 10 year old boy who almost jumped off a bridge in Allentown is proof of that. It seems that there’s still quite a lot of bullying going on in our area.
What Can I Do
Protecting your child from cyber-bullying is not difficult, but it does take a little bit of effort on your part.
1 . Set up parental controls. This is obviously useful for keeping your kids off sites that you don’t want them on. It can also keep them from seeing pages with certain content or language. There are also programs you can set up so that you can view what they have been looking at and what they’ve been reading. You wouldn’t let your kids play with toys that are dangerous, or talk to other kids that you think are not good for them, so why would you let them do this online? You have every right as their parent to make sure their safe, if that means spying on them a little, as long as you don’t get into their regular business, then do so.
2 . Make the computer public. The computer that they have access to should be in a place where other family members can see what they’re doing. A family room is a good place. This way you can check on them from time to time to make sure that they’re safe. Also, they’re less likely to be doing things that they shouldn’t be if there are other people around.
3 . Make sure you are your child’s friend. If they are on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter, you need to have them on your Friend list. This is not only a great way to keep up with what your child is doing on a regular basis, it’s also a way to keep them safer online. You can see all their posts and you can read what other people are posting to them. You can also find out more about the friends they keep and make sure they’re not hanging with the wrong crowd. After all, you do this with their real life friends, right?
4 . Watch gaming. Yes, you need to keep track of their gaming. This is not as hard as it sounds. Websites like World of Warcraft actually have parental controls built into them. All you have to do is set it up. Then you can have them send their gaming activity to your email. Gaming has become a social venue and should be treated as such.
5 . Watch cell phone use. This may be a little trickier. Try to get hold of their cellphones every now and then and look through their texts, photos, videos and anything else they have on their phone. You may only want to do this if you think there’s a problem because you don’t want to have them think that you’re interfering in their private lives. This can undermine your authority as a parent and ruin an otherwise good relationship with them.
6 . Communicate. Keep an open line of communication with your child. Ask them every day how their day was and look for specific things to ask about. Ask them about their friends and how they’re doing. If you do it right, they’ll start to think of you as someone who is genuinely interested in them and will be more willing to tell you things. If you don’t know any of their friends, ask. Find out who they sit with at lunch, see if those kids are in any of their classes, find out what they did after school. Don’t be pushy, be interested.
7 . Instruct your child. Tell them only to give out their cell phone number to select friends and never post it online, also tell them never to let others use their phone unless it’s an emergency. When it comes to texts, make sure they know never to respond to a text from a person they don’t know. This goes for phone calls too, they should not answer the phone unless they know who’s calling. Let it go to voicemail and deal with it later. Yes, this also goes for social networking sites. These sites have a lot of security features, use them.
Things to Think About
Your child may see all this as an intrusion on their privacy or they may feel that you don’t trust them. It’s very important that you discuss with him/her why you’re doing these things. If they fully understand the dangers and they know that you’re doing it from love rather then from lack of trust then they may even help you out. Your children look to you to provide a safety net for them and inform them about dangers so they can be safe. They have enough to worry about in their busy lives to have to worry about security. That’s why they have you, if you weren’t watching out for them, who knows what would happen.
When talking to your child about other children you may need to take a step back and remember what is was like to be a child. They don’t see other children as children, they see them as other people. They don’t see a bully as a child and the bully doesn’t see them as a child. They see each other as just another person. When you talk to your son/daughter about bullies, don’t talk about them as children, unless you’re trying to make a point about bullies being scared little children. Don’t speak down to your child either. Treat them as a person and they are more likely to treat you as a person right back.
You may not want to talk to your child about graphic things that happen in life, but you do need to find the fine line. If you don’t shock them enough, they won’t understand why you’re doing the things you’re doing to keep them safe.