Cyberbullying: Protecting Your KidsToo often, stories seem pop up in the news telling of teens who have been cyberbullied into suicide. While those are extreme cases, cyberbulling is on the rise. This is especially so with Asian American teens. A recently published study from the U.S. Department of Eductation showed that 62% of Asian Americans teens reported being harassed online at least once or twice a month.
With such a startling number in mind, we spoke with Donald DeBolt, the Director of Threat Research for Total Defense, Inc. DeBolt has been involved in identifying and protecting clients against digital threats for 12 years now and he took to the time to answer our questions about how to protect our children when online.
While it’s easy to limit access at home, outside the home is another story. How can parents make sure that their kids are smart about what they do online?
Parents should have an open dialog about the dangers of technology. First is the exposure to strangers and offensive content. Second is the potential for releasing too much information or simply creating inappropriate content.
"Being scarred for life" is a real risk and it can happen both by your own actions or the actions of others. Knowing the dangers ahead of time is critical. Parents should let their children know that there is a level of "permanence" associated with digital media. All text messages, blog comments, pictures, and other actions live for a long time on the servers of the Internet. Getting our children to second guess their actions involving the Internet and technology is critical.
Do you think that there is an actual increase in bullying or that it’s about the same except that the Internet allows it to reach more people?
Bullying is not new but we are in a new era of Bullying enabled by technology. The Internet and technology are catalyst for all forms of content including the abusive kind. People are also enabled via the abstraction layer offered by technology. Technology passes no judgment on what information is shared and aids the distribution of negative and inflammatory content to a wide audience. Victims of cyber bullying experience a feeling that "everyone knows" or "everyone has seen that comment about me." The use of technology makes the problem worse as comments are no longer isolated to the "school yard" or "small town."
What can parents do about nasty comments on social network sites aimed at their kids? What if it’s your child the one who’s doing the bullying? Parents first should ensure their children recognize and report abusive comments to them. Parents should limit the number of social networking sites their children participate in and chose those that offer the support to investigate and respond to abusive content complaints. Parents should also understand what controls are available within the social network to block unwanted content or people.
A key aspect to "bullying" is the repetition of the abuse. It is important to document abuse when it happens and keep a record of it offline.
Awareness of cyber bullying is growing and the school systems, ISPs, and cell phone companies can also be an ally in stopping the unwanted behavior. Parents should seek out these entities depending upon the source of the abuse and the medium used.
Parents of children performing the Bullying must work hard to convey that "real harm" is inflicted even when abusive messages are sent only in digital form. Often the children believe that it is funny and they don't appreciate the real impact on the victim. Monitor online behavior closely and if the behavior persists consider consultation with a mediating third party like the school system or even law enforcement.
How do you approach your child if you feel that s/he is being cyberbullied, but still give them space to deal with it on their own?
It's important to empathize with your child and let them know that you believe the hurt is real and that you want it to stop too. Parents should assess the seriousness of the situation and if appropriate empower the child to confront the source and request that they stop the abusive behavior. Parents intervening too early and confronting the source of the Bullying themselves is often met with more abuse directed at the child. If the behavior does not stop reach out to third parties for assistance. Don't ignore the problem hoping it will go away.
When do you think kids should have a social media page or email account?
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends distributed around the world. Children can participate in these forums vicariously by sitting down with their parents and reviewing posts by family and friends together. This is a great way to establish what is appropriate social media behavior.
Most children's network of friends is localized to the community itself. Parents are encouraged to keep their children active both mentally and physical and pursue engaging activities for their children. Keeping children active keeps them out of trouble and greatly reduces the need for contact via social media. It is highly recommended that parents refrain from setting up their children on social networking sites until the age of 13. Our children first need to learn how to respect others in person then and only then can they understand how to do this online.
Do you think it’s a good idea for a parent to virtually spy on their kids?
Spying on your children will only serve to erode the trust in the relationship and is highly discouraged. Monitoring your children's online behavior with their prior knowledge is the recommended approach. Parents must inform their children that their online activity will be monitored. Software such as Total Defense's Mobile Security and Parental Controls can enable monitoring as well as put important filters in place to block inappropriate content.
What is one thing that every parent should do when it comes to kids and the Internet?
Every parent must explain the dangers of the Internet (information disclosure, predators, cyber bullying, malware, and loss of innocence) to their children and limit their exposure commensurate with the child's age. With younger children come greater controls and lesser details on the dangers. Limiting our young children's use to those times when parents can closely monitor the activity is highly recommended. As children mature parents can explain more and reduce control ultimately enabling children to make the right decisions for themselves.
We would like to hear from you! If you have any comments or questions, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here Write Us!
Reproduction of material from any jademagazine.com pages without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. � JADE Magazine. All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER