Cyber Bullying is Real – Keep your Children Safe!
THUNDER BAY – The school year is about to start. One issue to keep in mind for parents, and teachers is that keeping kids safer means keeping an eye on them. One of the places some parents seemingly forget is still potentially dangerous is the Internet. From an unsupervised Internet connection, a child or young teen can be exposed to cyberbullying, and a host of other inappropriate material.
As a parent, it is critical that you take a more active role in your children’s online activity. A father, sitting in the living room watching hockey on Saturday night might think he is the greatest parent in the world, his teenaged daughter is home and therefore safe. Meanwhile his daughter could be on her computer in her bedroom getting into all kinds of trouble.
That is not to suggest cutting your family off from the Internet is a good idea. The ‘Net is a great tool for learning, socializing, and being creative.
The key is making sure there are set rules in place, and that you as a parent have taken all of the needed steps to make your home Internet safer.
Cyberbullying is Real
Right here, in Thunder Bay there are pages and groups on Facebook where people use the Internet to insult, taunt, and bully others. Cyber bullying does not just happen, it comes about because it is a learned activity.
The sad fact is often those individuals don’t see, or understand that their behaviour, and their attitudes that is is “all in good fun” or that it is “private” in what they are doing so it is “alright” is not alright at all. (More on Thunder Bay’s Cyber Bullying in an upcoming article: Thumbs Down on CyberBullying).
A key to online and offline safety is keeping the doors of communication open.
It also means taking a more active role. If you as a parent don’t take an active role in your child or teenager’s online activities, you are opening the door to possible problems.
The other consideration is that if you decide to clamp down so tight with restrictions, chances are you could drive your kids to find ways around all of the road blocks you put up. It is a balancing act.
You can use technology to help. If you suspect there are problems, a first step is looking at how your child is engaging online:
- Watch out if your child is spending hours on the internet, especially late at night when there is no one to monitor their activities;
- If your teen is online chatting, calling, texting, or messaging people who you think are far older than they are;
- If your child closes the browser if you walk into their room, it could be a sign of a child doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing;
- A sign of cyber bullying can be if your child becomes more withdrawn.
If you and your child work together, you can create a safer Internet environment. Doing that can prevent problems.
Finding the Balance
The news is full of reports on the problems and results of cyber bullying. Often for a parent there is a temptation to clamp down, especially if you don’t fully understand the issue. Getting yourself online is a start.
Remember, if you are there, and letting your teen teach you the Internet is it a way of learning what you are going to need to know.
Share with your children. A parent can set rules, but if there is no understanding as to what those rules are, or why they are there, chances are your teen will rebel against them.
Explaining to your son or daughter why they should not chat with online with strangers, or why they should not be posting personal information and asking them for their input is important.
Make sure that your children feel that they can come and talk to you about online activities. That way if they are cyber bullied, or harassed on the Internet, or at school they can feel you will help.
The family computer should be in a family place.
Next Saturday, more on Cyber Bullying and how it hits and hurts people in Thunder Bay.