Cyberbullying is bullying or harassment that happens online. It may occur in an email, text message, a game or on a social networking site. It might involve spreading rumors or images posted on someone’s profile to be passed around for others to see or creating a group or page to make a person feel left out.
Help Prevent Cyberbullying
Talk to your kids about bullying.
Tell your kids that they can't hide behind the words they type and the images they post. Bullying is a lose-lose situation. Hurtful messages not only make the target feel bad but also make the sender look bad. Often they can bring scorn from peers and punishment from authorities.
Ask your kids to let you know if an online message or image makes them feel threatened or hurt. If you fear for your child's safety, contact the police.
Read the comments and replies. Cyberbullying often involves mean-spirited comments and replies. Check out your kid's page from time to time to see what you find.
Recognize the signs of a cyberbully.
Could your kid be the bully? Look for signs of bullying behavior, such as creating mean images of another child. Keep in mind that you are a model for your children. Kids learn from adults' gossip and other behaviors.
Help stop cyberbullying.
Most kids don’t bully, and there’s no reason for anyone to put up with it. If your child sees cyberbullying happening to someone else, encourage him or her to try to stop it by telling the bully to stop and by not engaging or forwarding anything. Researchers say that bullying usually stops pretty quickly when peers intervene on behalf of the victim. One way to help stop bullying online is to report it to the site or network where you see it.
What to do About a Cyberbully
Don't react to the bully.
If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, keep a cool head. Remind your child that most people realize bullying is wrong. Tell your child not to respond in kind. Instead, encourage him or her to work with you to save the evidence and talk to you about it. If the bullying persists, share the record with school officials or local law enforcement.
Protect your child’s profile.
If your child finds a profile that was created or altered without his or her permission, contact the site to have it taken down.
Block or delete the bully.
If the bullying involves instant messaging or another online service that requires a "friend" or "buddy" list, delete the bully from the lists or block their username or email address.
KIDS and Computer Security
The security of your computer can affect the safety of your online experience-and your kid’s. Talk to your kids about what they can do to protect your computer and your family’s personal information.
Teaching Computer Security
Talk to your kids about:
• Protecting their personal information. Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords are examples of information to keep private.
• Watching out for "free" stuff. Free games, ringtones, or other downloads can hide malware. Tell your kids not to download anything unless it is a trusted source and they have scanned it with security software.
• Using strong email passwords and protect them. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. Personal information, your login name, common words, or adjacent keys on the keyboard are not safe passwords. Kids can protect their passwords by not sharing them with anyone, including their friends.
Also, be sure your family computers are protected by reputable security software and use these basic computer security practices.
P2P File Sharing
Some kids share music, games, or software online. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing allows people to share these kinds of files through an informal network of computers running the same software. P2P file-sharing has risks:
• You could accidentally provide many people with access to your private files.
• If your kids download copyrighted material, you could get mired in legal issues.
• A shared file could hide spyware, malware, or pornography.
Here are some tips to help your kids share files safely:
• Install file-sharing software properly. Activate the proper settings so that nothing private is shared.
• Before your kids open or play any file they’ve downloaded, advise them to use security software to scan it. Make sure the security software is up-to-date and running when the computer is connected to the internet.
Phishing is when scam artists send fake text, email, or pop-up messages to get people to share their personal and financial information. Criminals use the information to commit identity theft.
Here are tips you can share with your kids to help them avoid a phishing scam:
• Don't reply to a text, email, or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, and don't follow any links in the message.
• Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. Unexpected files may contain malware.
Get your kids involved, so they can develop their scam “antennas” and careful internet habits. Look for "teachable moments" — if you get a phishing message, show it to your kids. A demonstration can help them recognize a potential phishing scam and help them understand that messages on the internet aren't always what they seem.
Kids and Mobile Phones
What age is appropriate for a kid to have a cell phone? That’s something for you and your family to decide. Consider your child’s age, personality and maturity and your family’s circumstances. Is your child responsible enough to follow the rules set by you and the school? When you decide your children are ready for a cell phone, teach them to think about safety and responsibility.
Decide on options and features for your kid's phone.
Your mobile phone company and the phone itself should give you some choices for privacy settings and child safety controls. Most carriers allow parents to turn off features, like web access, texting, or downloading. Some cell phones are made especially for children. They're designed to be easy to use and have features like limited internet access, minute management, number privacy, and emergency buttons.
Be smart about smartphones.
Many phones offer web access and mobile apps. If your children are going to use a phone and you're concerned about what they might find online, you can choose a phone with limited internet access
Get familiar with social mapping.
Many mobile phones now have GPS technology installed: kids with these phones can pinpoint where their friends are — and be pinpointed by their friends. Advise your kids to use these features only with friends they know in person and trust, and not to broadcast their location to the world, 24-7. Also, some carriers offer GPS services that let parents map their kid's location.
Develop Cell Phone Rules
Explain what you expect.
Talk to your kids about when and where it's appropriate to use their cell phones. You also may want to establish rules for responsible use. Do you allow calls or texting at the dinner table? Do you have rules about cell phone use at night? Should they give you their cell phones while they're doing homework, or when they're supposed to be sleeping?
Don't stand for mobile bullying.
Kids can use mobile phones to bully and harass others. Talk to your kids about treating others the same way they want to be treated. The manners and ethics you've taught them are to apply on phones as well.
Set an example.
It's illegal to drive while texting or surfing or talking on the phone without a hands-free device in many states, but it's dangerous everywhere. Set an example for your kids. Talk to them about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.
Mobile Sharing and Networking
Networking and sharing on-the-go can present unique opportunities and challenges. These tools can foster creativity and fun, but they could cause problems related to personal reputation and safety.
Use care when sharing photos and videos.
Most mobile phones now have a camera and video capability, making it easy for teens to capture and share every moment. Encourage your teens to think about their privacy and that of others before they share photos and videos via cell phone. Get the okay of the photographer or the person in the shot before posting videos or photos. It could be embarrassing and even unsafe. It's easier to be smart upfront about what media they share at the outset than to do damage control later.
Use good judgment in mobile social networking.
Many social networking sites have a feature that allows users to check their profiles and post comments from their phones, allowing access from anywhere. Filters you've installed on your home computer won't limit what kids can do on the phone. If your teens are using a mobile phone, talk to them about using good sense when they're social networking from it.