Being a parent with a child plugged into our ever-increasing technological world can be a challenge.
Although many of the strategies for keeping your children safe from online predators and cyberbullying remain the same as they were when computers first became a part of our daily lives, advances in technology have changed the way all of us receive and disseminate information.
For example, if your child has a cellular phone, it is likely connected to the Internet, and may have a text messaging plan. This means that most kids, especially teenagers, are literally walking around with computers in their pockets, purses, and knapsacks. Even if your child doesn’t own one, chances are high that they have a friend who does.
Kids are now dealing with cyberbullying and electronic harassment in ways that many parents cannot imagine, and that can be overwhelming, even harmful, to your child. Massachusetts state law requires that every child’s school have a bullying and cyberbullying plan, and your child’s principal should be the first person to which you report any instances of bullying.
If you believe your child is being bullied online, it is helpful to document any and all contact that the bully or bullies make with your child. It is also helpful to print out screen shots, emails, or Instant Message exchanges, or save images on your computer or on a flash drive to keep as evidence of online bullying or harassment. To report online incidents that rise to the level of a criminal offense, contact your local police department.
To ask a question, or for more information about cyberbullying or Internet safety, you can email the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office at [email protected].
Connect Safely is a website that provides many helpful tips to parents and their children regarding cyberbullying, sexting, video sharing, Facebook, and many other helpful tips that will help parents familiarize yourselves with the different technologies your children are using, and provide you with the tools to help your child.
It is very important for you as a parent to establish rules for your child’s Internet use. Consider the use of an Internet safety pledge or contract to set the rules your child must adhere to while online. Be mindful of your child’s Internet use and make sure that there is an open line of communication with your children about their online activities.
General Internet Safety Tips
Cyberbullying Tips for Your Children
(Re-posted from the website Connect Safely)
Don’t respond. If someone bullies you, remember that your reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants. It gives him or her power over you. Who wants to empower a bully?
Don’t retaliate. Getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression.
Save the evidence. The only good news about digital bullying is that the harassing messages can usually be captured, saved, and shown to someone who can help. You need to do this even if it’s minor stuff, in case things escalate.
Talk to a trusted adult. You deserve backup. It’s always good to involve a parent but – if you can’t – a school counselor usually knows how to help. Sometimes both are needed. If you’re really nervous about saying something, see if there’s a way to report the incident anonymously at school.
Block the bully. If the harassment’s coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments, do yourself a favor: Use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it’s in chat, leave the “room.”
Be civil. Even if you don’t like someone, it’s a good idea to be decent and not sink to the other person’s level. Also, research shows that gossiping about and trash talking others increases your risk of being bullied. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Don’t be a bully. How would you feel if someone harassed you? You know the old saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes; even a few seconds of thinking about how another person might feel can put a big damper on aggression. That’s needed in this world.
Be a friend, not a bystander. Watching or forwarding mean messages empowers bullies and hurts victims even more. If you can, tell bullies to stop or let them know harassment makes people look stupid and mean. It’s time to let bullies know their behavior is unacceptable – cruel abuse of fellow human beings. If you can’t stop the bully, at least try to help the victim and report the behavior.
Some Potential Online Risks
Being aware of potential risks will make it easier for parents to talk to their children about potentially dangerous scenarios, and helps them guard against victimization or becoming victimizers themselves.
Signs Your Child May Be At Risk
Steps to Take if Your Child is Unlawfully Contacted
If you are concerned about an immediate threat to someone you know, or that your child has received files, communications, or materials that are offensive and could be illegal, take the following steps:
You can report the incident to the Suffolk District Attorney’s office or to any of the law enforcement contacts below: