How to protect children from cyberbullying
Cyberbullying, or cyberstalking is a relatively new type of threat, which society faces due to the development of digital technologies. Potentially, every Internet user can fall victim to cyberbullying, but children are especially vulnerable to it. How to reduce the risk of cyberthreats and protect your child?
Why cyberbullying is dangerous
In the real world, a person is constantly facing various kinds of violence. As a rule, over time, he or she develops protective psychological mechanisms helping to cope with this, plus, for example, learns to avoid suspicious groups and call the police when necessary. A child who is being physically attacked by peers may turn to adults for help, who will take measures to protect him or her. But with cyberbullying, the situation is quite different:
- there is no direct physical contact with the offender(s); often the criminal and the victim may not know each other - a person does not even feel safe at home;
- embarrassing, abusive or aggressive messages and videos are stored longer; it is almost impossible to completely remove them from the Web;
- the virtual audience, which may get hold of somebody’s personal information, is much wider than the social circle in real life, and it is extremely difficult to control.
Information spreads very quickly on the Internet, plus this process is impossible to control, so imagine what a grave problem a child who is subjected to cyber-harassment may face.
Cyberstalking: risk groups
Bullying is most widespread among high school and middle school students. Many adolescents’ relationships exist only in the digital space, which leads to a shift in the emphases: the events in the online world become higher priority than those in real life. In addition, parents and teachers often have no idea about the virtual activity of children, therefore they cannot take timely measures to protect them.
Often the initiators and perpetrators of cyber-harassment are children from dysfunctional families. It is difficult for them to build full-fledged relations in reality, so they splash out their aggression by any way available to them.
The main reason for their destructive behavior is their low self-esteem, a desperate desire to assert themselves - at the expense of others.
In this regard, one of the most important steps to be taken by teachers and parents to prevent cyberbullying is to be attentive to their children and take timely action when there are certain alarm signs.
How to protect your child from cyberthreats
In the long run, the best decision to ensure the safety of the child is to build a trusting relationship with him or her. Not only should you teach your child how to predict the results of his or her actions, but also your kid should realize that at a difficult moment he or she can turn to a loved one for help. So, when it comes to child cybersecurity, the role of parents and teachers is huge. They have a difficult task - to teach the kids to correctly behave in the virtual space. Thy should arm the kids with all necessary knowledge and strategies for behavior in case of a threat. Here are a few steps which can help prevent cyberbullying.
Respect the value of a teenager’s virtual life.
It is dangerous to underestimate how important the Internet is for a child. For them, communication in chats, social networks and instant messengers is equivalent to a real meeting with friends. Therefore, if adults severely restrict access to these resources, most likely, the child will try to do it in secret. And in a difficult situation, he or she will turn for help to virtual friends, rather than to the parents who’ll just say “I warned you”.
Therefore, you’ll should find a reasonable compromise between entertainment and constructive activity. Maintaining a balance between rigor and care is a real art of parenting. And you can learn it.
Teach your child Internet security.
What seems obvious to us (not to post certain kind of photos and personal information, not to let strangers know passwords and codes, etc.) for children can be new and incomprehensible. Therefore, it is very important to explain what risks network communication can pose and how to avoid them.
Set the rules.
Uncontrolled access to the Web gives a sense of permissiveness. It is noticed that on the Internet, teenagers behave in much more tactful way when they know that their messages can be seen by parents. It is useful to establish parental control and regularly talk with your child about the rules of behavior on the Internet. Talk about his or her virtual friends, hobbies and activities on the Web. And be sure to explain the reason for this. In real life, you are always interested where your kid spends his or her free time - and who with. It is logical that you want to be sure of your kid’s safety in the digital space.
Teach kids network etiquette.
Behavior on the Web should be as polite as in the real life. We do not insult people in the street, we do not enter into frank conversations with strangers – so, the same principles should work on the Internet.
How to stop cyberbullying
No one can be completely safe from bullying. If you become aware of this, you can do the following:
- report the event to the administrator of the resource, where it occurred;
- save all emails, screenshots, messages that confirm the fact of intimidation;
- if you know the offender in person, contact the school for the teachers to take action;
- if your child is a passive spectator of cyberbullying, explain that such a behavior only encourages the aggressor, and be sure to take measures that could stop it.
Do not forget that the Internet is primarily a valuable source of knowledge and useful information. One of the most important objectives for teachers and parents is to teach children "digital hygiene", i.e. the ability to independently screen out potentially dangerous resources and take care of their own safety.