Could your child be a cyberbully?
Social Media Sites and Apps are handed to our kids as soon as they get a smartphone or other internet connected device. These devices are powerful and potentially dangerous but many kids are getting them without so much as a blink of an eye from parents. Many parents want their kids to have them for safety reasons so they can get in touch with them in a nano-second and vice versa. They also get them so their kids won’t feel left out socially.
Let’s take a step back and think about another dangerous device that’s on the roadways, cars. Fortunately, there are regulations for driving cars. Most kids take driving lessons, and they do have to pass a driving test. There are no such requirements for getting an internet, webcam enabled connected smartphone.
Kids obey the rules of the road, because they don’t want to get pulled over and get a speeding ticket, have their insurance rates go up or face the wrath of their parents. Police are lurking by the side of the road in wait for offenders. Who’s making sure that our kids aren’t breaking the rules of the internet highway? For that matter are there any rules?
Once upon a time we had cars on the roads without traffic lights too. Remember Ford’s Model T in 1908? In the early days of motor vehicles, getting around on roads was pretty chaotic, with pedestrians, bicycles, horses and carriages all competing with cars for the right of way. The first traffic light was put in place in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio. Green lights that let us go, yellow lights that warn us that the light will be changing to red and that we should stop it we can, and red lights that tell us to stop. Chaos has been replaced with basic regulations to keep us all safe.
That has not happened online. As a result, the cyberbully is out there like a menacing, reckless driver on the road, leaving broken tweens and teens in his or her wake. Anonymous apps make it easy for a cyberbully to injure at will online without any consequences. To complete the car analogy, would anyone be allowed to purposefully expose drivers to potentially harmful impediments in the roadways? Never. Yet anonymous apps are profiting from providing a dangerous platform for the cyberbully to harm others.
Who Can Stop the Cyberbully?
Who can stop the cyberbully? Parents can. Unfortunately, many parents suffer from the not my child syndrome. Suzanne Wesler Peck recently said in Northwestern’s magazine, ninety-nine percent of parents will say, “Not my child, he’s innocent.” If we can wake parents up, then we can help stop this epidemic that is hurting our kids. Parents need to know how their kids are behaving online, by checking in on their behavior.
Parents of the victim also need to be checking in on their child’s online behavior, with their child’s knowledge. If they notice cyberbullying, they should save the evidence to bring into school authorities or the police if necessary with their child’s permission. This eliminates the “he said, she said” problem by the cyberbully and the parents “not my child syndrome” problem, stopping cyberbullying in it’s tracks.
Signs That May Indicate Your Child is a Cyberbully:
- Your child uses anonymous apps.
- Your child becomes secretive about their online activity and quickly closes the screen or hides their mobile device from you.
- The friends your child hangs out with seem to lack empathy for others and enjoy making fun of others. You over hear the insults and less than flattering comments. Your child doesn’t seem to care that he or she is hurting others.
- Your child is overly concerned with being “popular”.
- Your child uses their computer device at all hours of the night.
- They think that mean pranks are just jokes, even when someone gets hurt. They are unable to make the distinction of when a joke is not a joke.
You’ve discovered that your child is a cyberbully. What do you do?
- Even though this kind of behavior is beyond your imagination and you probably are feeling upset and angry, it’s important to stay calm.
- Let your child know you are aware of the cyberbullying. If they deny it, show them a printed copy of what you’ve seen.
- Explain that what they’re doing is completely unacceptable and why.
- Help them understand the consequences of their actions. Ask them how they’d feel if someone was doing the same thing to them or to someone they know.
- Let them know that their have been real life cases of cyberbullying that have had tragic results.
- Talk to them about the seriousness of their actions. Let them all states (except Montana) have cyberbullying laws in place, so he or she could be violating the law and face criminal charges. Ask them how they’d feel if their actions were reported to the police or to school authorities.
- Remove their device privileges for a period of time. Have them write an essay about the impact of cyberbullying on victims.
- Let your child know that when they do get their devices back that you will be monitoring their behavior.
- Seek professional help for your child.