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healthy kids and family

How to Raise Healthy Kids in the Digital Age

With screen time consuming most of our days, we have to be conscious of how this trend is affecting our kids and shaping their young minds. Growing research supports the notion of parents using media as a teaching tool to increase digital literacy skills and as a way to discourage kids from mindlessly consuming media.

What does this mean for parents?

It means that we must teach our kids that media represents far more than entertainment—it can involve learning through an educational app or game, creating videos, songs, or pictures, and connecting with others. Parents should actively encourage family connection through media—this involves using media together as a family.

For younger children in particular, pediatrician Jenny Radesky encourages prioritizing “unplugged, social, and unstructured play as much as possible” over any kind of screen time. We have known for years that creative play is good for children, but boredom is also beneficial for child development.  Screen time can become a mind-numbing outlet where kids disengage their brains and escape boredom. However, psychologists actually encourage boredom, emphasizing that it helps children learn to be still, quiet their minds, sit with themselves, and understand who they are.

Here are some tips to help you be a better digital role model for your child:

  • Don’t reach for your phone when you’re distracted.

Yes, we all multitask, and thanks to our phones, we can multitask more than ever before. But if you’re eating dinner, responding to work emails on your phone, and listening to your child talk about his day at school (all at the same time), your child isn’t getting your full, undivided attention. Plus, they learn that it’s acceptable to reach for their phone or tablet whenever they’re bored, distracted, or fidgety.

It’s important to teach your child that there is a time and a place for using their devices, but that there also must be certain spots in your home and times in the day where devices aren’t allowed, so that you and your family can talk, listen, and interact without devices or without feeling the need to multitask.

  • Don’t use an electronic device to soothe your child during or after a tantrum.

If your child is throwing a screaming, arms-flailing, rage-filled tantrum in a crowded supermarket, and you simply want the theatrics to stop quickly and with as little effort as possible, it can be tempting to hand them a tablet or smartphone to pacify them. However, parents shouldn’t use electronic devices to calm their child down during or after a tantrum.

According to Medical Daily, “pacifying children with a device doesn’t treat their behavior, but instead delays and possibly worsens the problem.” This practice can also hobble effective communication between the parent and child, making it more likely that the child will not listen to their parents when another tantrum or fight occurs.

  • Don’t feel pressured to introduce technology early.

Don’t feel like you have to introduce technology or media into your child’s life earlier than you or they feel comfortable in order to secure a competitive advantage. According to pediatrician Jenny Radesky, “interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly” and catch up with their peers once they’re older or in school.

If you want to slowly begin teaching your young child about internet safety, online etiquette, and social media in a safe, private environment, we encourage you to check out eebudee, a training platform that prepares kids aged 4 to 12 (and their families) for the online world.

To sign up, head to our website. The eebudee chat app is also available on Android and iPhone.

**The eebudee online platform and app are in beta phase and will be officially launched in 2017. If you have any feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.**

shy kid

Helping Your Shy Child Navigate Social Media

Shy kids may be more reticent than their extroverted classmates about joining a social media network. But CNN reports that there are some positives to joining social media, especially for kids who are shy or introverted.

A Common Sense Media study of more than 1,000 kids aged 13- to 17 analyzed how this cohort views their digital lives and found the following:

  • 28% said social networking made them feel more outgoing, while only 5% said it made them feel less so.
  • 29% said social media made them feel less shy, versus 3% who reported it made them feel more introverted.
  • 52% said social media has improved their relationships with friends, while 4% said it negatively impacted their friendships.
  • 20% said social media makes them feel more confident, versus 4% who said it made them feel less so.

What does this mean for shy kids?

Social media can be a place for kids and teens who feel isolated to connect with others who share their same interests.

Face-to-face communication can be hard for shy kids, often making them feel awkward and uncomfortable, but social media chats and conversations can take some of the pressure off of these social interactions.

According to Our Everyday Life, messaging, chatting, and other social media conversations can help develop kids’ social skills.

Tips for helping your shy child navigate social media

Shy kids tend to become overwhelmed with too many stimuli. Social interactions, whether they’re in person or online, can tire your child out.

Today’s Parent magazine suggests telling your child that it’s okay to return to the quiet if they become overstimulated by a situation. Don’t encourage your child to change or make them feel bad about being shy; instead, be a role model for them and support them.

However, if your child is eager to join a social media network, encourage them to sign up for one that is well-suited to their temperament. Also, be sure to keep the below pointers in mind:

  • While Facebook can help with social interaction and connecting with other kids at school, a shy child may feel pressured to constantly post updates and photos of themselves, comment on their friends’ walls, or rapidly expand their network of friends. Therefore, they may have trouble “disconnecting” from Facebook.
  • A better option, especially if your child likes photography and is artistically inclined, may be a site like Instagram, where there isn’t as much pressure to consistently post and always be connected.
  • Yet another option is eebudee, a private online platform and app where young kids (ages 4-12) can learn about social media and how to interact online in a safe, judgment-free setting. With eebudee, kids can interact with their parents, family members, and close friends without the pressures or dangers of other social media networks.

What to watch out for

Don’t let social media become a crutch for your shy child. Too much screen time can lead to isolation if kids replace in-person interactions with social media. Watch out that your child doesn’t take refuge in social media.

Also, make sure that your child doesn’t create a virtual, online persona that is different from who they are in real life; this can happen when a child develops an idealized persona online that is in stark contrast to their real personality.

Furthermore, your child won’t get as much from social media if they are a “lurker” on these sites rather than an active participant. In other words, keep an eye out to see if they spend more time viewing other people’s photos and posts than using social media to interact and connect with others. (Studies have shown that the more time kids spend scrolling through other people’s photos, the more likely they are to feel depressed or envious.)

The key lies in teaching your child to find a healthy balance between social media and real life.

Visit our Facebook page and stay tuned to our blog for more on social media balance, online safety, and other tips for parents on raising kids in the digital age.

stop cyber bullying

How to Talk to Your Child About Cyber Bullying

Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, this week we’re covering cyber bullying. Keep reading for guidelines on how to speak to your child if you suspect they are a victim of cyber bullying. (If you need a refresher on what cyber bullying is, you can check out this blog post.)

How you handle a bullying situation will largely depend on your child’s age. See the tips below from Child Development and Behavior Specialist, Betsy Brown Braun, for what to say to your child, regardless of whether they’re being bullied at school or online:

Young Children

If your child complains of someone at school making them feel bad, hurting their feelings, or picking on them online, tell them to immediately notify a grown-up (be it a teacher, parent, babysitter, or relative) because a grown-up will be able to help.

Read on for tips on what to say if your young child comes to you with this issue.

Older Children

You should urge your older child to tell a grown-up, but also give them suggestions on how to respond to a bully.

Bullies boost their own self-esteem by putting others down and often prey on victims they perceive to be weak, so it’s critical that your child is prepared with a response. This response can be anything from a nonchalant “so what?” or “who cares?” to a curt “back off!”

For cyber bullying situations in particular, urge your child to tell the bully to stop. If the bully doesn’t stop, your child can save and print the evidence (be it a Facebook message or a screenshot) to show to an adult.

If the cyber bully is anonymous, the Cyberbullying Research Center recommends reporting them to the content provider. For example, Facebook and Google make it easy to report instances of cyber bullying, since harassment constitutes a violation of their terms of service.

Most importantly, tell your child that they have your support. Children need to know that you believe them and will help them.

Finally, encourage your child to always take the high road when dealing with a bully and never stoop to their level. You can echo Michelle Obama’s now famous words, “when they go low, we go high,” to model the proper attitude towards handling bullies. (Source: Laurie Levy, Huffington Post).

What Not to Say to Your Child When They’re Being Cyber Bullied

  • Do not tell them to just walk away or ignore the bullying because this will not help your child feel empowered. (Remember: Bullying is more serious than teasing because it’s targeted, repeated behavior. Therefore, it shouldn’t be ignored.)
  • Do not encourage them to change their behavior in order to be accepted by the bully. (Source: Laurie Levy, Huffington Post).

Taking Action

Combating cyber bullying is a community effort that requires parents, students, and schools to work together. National Bullying Prevention Month was established to bring communities together to educate and raise awareness around bullying prevention.

To learn more about National Bullying Prevention Month, as well as the activities and events sponsored by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center that are taking place in October across the nation, you can visit the PACER website here.

The PACER website has tool kits for elementary to high school educators and parents that are designed to spark discussion about bullying prevention inside and outside the classroom. PACER also has tips for getting involved, as well as resources for parents.

If you’re eager to learn more about how to help your child deal with cyber bullying, check out this blog post. Stay tuned to the blog for more on cyber bullying and issues surrounding online safety.

new technologies concept: hands with touchscreen tablet with parental control on the screen. Screen graphics are made up.

Do You Monitor Your Kids Online?

Are you curious about what your young kids are up to online? You’re not alone. There are a wide range of parental control and monitoring software and apps available for parents to choose from, and we’ll discuss these options later in this post.

Although monitoring apps are certainly useful, we strongly believe the best approach to keeping kids safe online is speaking openly with them about the risks as soon as they start using a computer. Parents often use social media monitoring software as one part of a multi-faceted approach.

Of course, every family will have their own approach to parenting, and it’s important that you choose a strategy that works for you and your children.

We’d also like to mention that new monitoring apps enter the market frequently. We’ve taken a moment to review some of the more popular options on the market, so you can more easily decide whether monitoring software is right for you, and if so, which version may work best for your family.

But first, we want to delve into why parents are so eager to track their kids online.

What’s fueling the demand for parental monitoring apps and software?

According to ABI Research, there are a couple of factors fueling the billion dollar online tracking industry:

  • inadequate cyber education for children;
  • insufficient parental knowledge about the rapidly changing cyber industry; and
  • a resulting lack of parental confidence.

What apps are available for monitoring social media and Internet use?

The common denominator for each of the apps below is that they aren’t designed for spying on your child’s devices; instead the apps are meant to prompt discussions with your child if suspicious activity is detected on their devices.

Bark (https://www.bark.us)

Billing itself as “your family’s watchdog for internet safety,” Bark analyzes the activity on your child’s device and alerts you when a problem is found. To sign up, you have to connect your child’s accounts (including social media, text messaging, and email) to your Bark account.

Bark alerts you via email and text message if it suspects anything suspicious, such as sexting, cyber bullying, or even suicidal thoughts, and includes recommended actions to handle the situation.

With Bark, you don’t have to comb through your child’s social media posts or text messages, so you build trust and an open dialogue with your child as issues arise.

Cost: The first month is free, and after that, it’s $9/month/per family.

Pocket Guardian (https://gopocketguardian.com)

Similar to Bark, Pocket Guardian alerts parents when sexting, bullying, or explicit images are detected on their child’s device. Although parents can’t see the actual content or who it’s from, they do receive helpful resources specific to the alert type, which are designed to spark a discussion with their child.

Pocket Guardian works with Android and iOS devices; you can visit the website to sign up.

Cost: There is a 30-day free trial and then you have a choice of two monthly subscription plans. The Basic plan costs $9.99 per month, per household, and monitors SMS, iMessage, and social media accounts, while the Plus plan costs $12.99 per month, per household, and monitors everything in the Basic plan plus additional messaging apps.

Trackidz (http://trackidz.com)

Just as with Bark and Pocket Guardian, Trackidz is designed to be non-invasive in order to respect your child’s privacy. Although you can’t see specific content from your child’s device, you can track app installations and use, block browsers and apps, manage time in apps and on the device, schedule device-free time, track the device’s location, receive an alert when your child’s phone is turned off, and see your child’s contacts.

Another feature allows your child to send you an emergency notification by tapping multiple times on the phone’s power button; and when you open the emergency message, you can see your child’s location. Visit the website to sign up for the app.

Cost: There is a free 15-day trial, and then you pay a one-time fee of $6.99 (per family). There is no monthly fee.

Is there another approach?

In short, yes. Before recurring to these apps, we recommend speaking with your children about online safety long before they become teens. According to CNN, direct communication is best because it fosters kids’ sense of responsibility and resilience.

One way to begin the discussion is to use a cyber education platform, like eebudee, to equip your kids with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the online world.

eebudee was founded to close this digital knowledge gap.

What is eebudee?

eebudee is a training platform that prepares kids aged 4 to 12 (and their families) for the online world. To sign up, head to our website. The eebudee chat app is also available on Android and iPhone.

**The eebudee online platform and app are in beta phase and will be officially launched in 2017. If you have any feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.**

image of child looking at cell phone screen

The Screen Time Limits Recommended by Pediatricians

You’ve laid down the ground rules with your kids, but how do you know just how much screen time is too much, and more importantly, how do you go about enforcing these limits?

According to CNN, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised their media guidelines and recommends the following screen time limits and best practices:

  • Kids should be limited to two hours per day of combined laptop and smartphone use. This two hour limit excludes online homework and any schoolwork. Parents should ensure that during this two hour timeframe, kids engage with only high-quality content.
  • Children under two should not have any screen media exposure (the rationale being that young children learn best by interacting with people as opposed to screens).
  • Families should set a media curfew, or a time in the evening when parents tell their kids to turn their phones, tablets, TVs, and computers off.

AAP found that kids spend an average of seven hours per day on entertainment media, which includes TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices.

Even more shocking are the findings of a Common Sense Media report: 38% of children under two have used a mobile device or tablet for media; and the average time per day that children under two spend with screen media is an hour.

Too much screen time is becoming a public health issue

While these guidelines may seem unrealistic or excessively strict, keep in mind that children’s behavioral, emotional, and physical health is at stake with rising media usage.

According to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, when kids engage in too much screen time, they can become overweight, develop attention disorders, and have problems at school.

Studies have also linked excessive screen time to eye strain, aggressive behavior, sleep disorders, and even mental health diagnoses in kids.

Enforcing screen time limits and other tips

  • Monitor the media that your kids use.
  • Encourage outdoor and physical activity when your kids are outside of school.
  • Engage in screen time and media activities, such as playing a video game or watching a TV show, with your child. This way you know how much screen time they’re actually getting, and by engaging in these kinds of activities together, you encourage bonding and social interaction. You can also use this together time to promote learning by teaching your kids about advertising through commercials on TV, or the importance of not oversharing via online content.
  • Value face-to-face communication. While an educational learn-the-alphabet app or game may seem like a good way to improve language skills, AAP reports that young children learn best through two-way communication. This means that actual back-and-forth conversations are necessary to improve language skills, rather than passive listening or one-way interaction on an electronic device.
  • Know that not all media content is equal. AAP encourages the use of high-quality content, such as e-books and FaceTime or Skype video chats with relatives or a traveling parent. (As noted above, two-way conversations, no matter if they’re in person or online, boost children’s language skills and capacity for social interaction.)

With our increasingly digital world, it’s more important than ever to raise media literate children. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the AAP website. AAP has a wealth of information about children and media safety, including how to talk to your kids about social media, screen time, and sexting.

If you have a suggestion or advice regarding establishing screen time limits, please feel free to leave a comment below.

You can also visit our Facebook page to be part of our growing community of parents who want to learn more about raising kids to be healthy, happy, and well-rounded, while still embracing social media and the online world.

underage-social-media-users-photo

Do you know if your child’s on Facebook or Instagram?

Although the minimum age is 13, there are many younger children who are hidden users on Facebook and other social media networks.

According to a recent US study reported about in the Atlantic, one-quarter of children aged 12 and under used Facebook and lied about their age to join the site.

34% of Facebook users in the study were 8-to-10-year-olds.

Even more shocking, Consumer Reports found that, of the twenty million minors on Facebook, 7.5 million of them are under age 13.

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform with hidden, underage users. Photo-sharing sites and apps, such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat, which all have a minimum age of 13, are especially popular among the elementary school set.

Although there is no hard data on how many underage kids use the app, the Atlantic reports that Instagram is the most-used photography site for 12-to-17-year-olds.

Is underage social media use harmful to children?

According to the psychologists and educators in the US study, “Engaging in these online social interactions prior to necessary cognitive and emotional development that occurs throughout middle childhood could lead to negative encounters or poor decision-making.

As a result, teachers and parents need to be aware of what children are doing online and to teach media literacy and safe online habits at younger ages than perhaps previously thought.”

This means that kids younger than 13 are joining social media networks that are meant for teenagers and adults before they’re developmentally and cognitively ready.

According to cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken, children ages 4 to 12 are the most vulnerable population online. But this age group is not only vulnerable to online predators, cyber bullies, and adult content.

Aiken argues that kids under 13 haven’t gone through the stages of identity formation yet, and therefore have trouble distinguishing their cyber-selves from reality.

What are other consequences of underage social media use?

The Atlantic reports that, in general, the younger the user, the more friends they have on a social media network. On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing.

However, studies have shown that these young users are more prone to cyber bullying because although they may have more friends on Facebook, often the friends they have in their large online network are not true friends.

Their “friends” on social networks may be classmates or casual acquaintances, rather than close friends. This may explain why a Consumer Reports study found that during the past year alone 1 million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyber bullying on Facebook.

How can you teach your child about social media in a protected environment?

There is a safer alternative to Facebook and Instagram. It’s the eebudee app. Designed for kids 13 and under, eebudee is a secure app that allows kids, their parents, close friends, and extended family members to learn about social media in a safe, private environment. (Only you, the parent, or another responsible adult determines who can join in.)

With eebudee, kids learn to communicate, interact, and behave online, without the real-world dangers and consequences. The eebudee chat app is available on Android and iPhone.

You can also sign up for eebudee on our website to learn more about safe social media.

The eebudee online platform and app are in beta phase and will be officially launched mid-year 2017. If you have any feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.

 

Online Predator

Keeping Your Child Safe from Online Predators

One of the most important lessons children need to learn about the online world is that people are not always who they say they are on the internet. This week we’re covering “bunny hunting,” a disturbing practice in which child abusers send messages or photos to kids they don’t know in an effort to get them to respond.

According to the Washington Post, a 2014 FBI report found that one in five children between the ages of 12 and 18, who regularly logged onto the internet, said they received an unwanted sexual solicitation online. And only 25% of these children told a parent.

What to watch out for

Geotags

If your kids are active on any form of social media, talk to them about geotags. Child abusers and stalkers use geotags to determine a child’s location. Geotags are electronic tags that assign a geographical location to a photo or video. For example, if your child posts a photo with a geotag to Instagram, then an online stalker could figure out where they live, especially if they’re posting multiple photos with geotags.

To keep your child safe, disable the geotag locator on their phone. The steps for disabling the geotag locator are different depending on the phone type; however, for most phones, you’ll have to go to the settings menu and disable the location option to turn off all tracking.

Voice modulating software

Child abusers and online predators often use voice modulating software to disguise their age and gender. This is a common practice among adults who contact kids through video games.

Authority figures

Online predators are often seen as trustworthy figures in the community. They can be judges, teachers, religious leaders, or even law enforcement officers, who take advantage of their position of authority. The Washington Post reports that in a recent case in Loudoun County, Virginia, a government official was arrested for using Skype to send sexual solicitations to over 70 children.

How can you keep your child safe from “bunny hunters” who engage in online sexual exploitation?

Tell your child to:

  • Inform you immediately if they feel uncomfortable about someone or something online. This is especially true if someone threatened them online or sent them something inappropriate.
  • Never send a photo or picture (especially of themselves) to someone online without first talking to you.
  • Never agree to meet someone they meet online.
  • Never give out any personal information about themselves, their family, or their acquaintances without a parent’s permission. Tell them this includes their address, telephone number, school name and address, social security number, and any information about their parents or family members, such as work addresses and work telephone numbers. Even seemingly benign information, such as a friend’s name, the name of their baseball team, or the name of the field where they play, can all be used by an online predator to figure out who your child is and where they’re located. According to the Crime Victims Center, predators can spend months gathering detailed information about a child before taking any action.
  • Never give any passwords to anyone.
  • Never respond to any messages that make them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, and/or bad about themselves.

Although the statistics are scary, by following these tips, you can help your child avoid becoming an online predator’s target. Taking that first step and beginning the discussion with your child about internet and social media safety is the hardest part.

For more online safety tips, you can stay tuned to our blog or join our Facebook community.

Computer crime concept

How Terrorists Target Kids on Social Media

Monitoring your child online is more important than ever because terrorist organizations, including ISIS, are increasingly using online propaganda to target young children and recruit them. According to the Verge, “social media platforms have become the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and the recruiting platform for terrorism.”

ISIS uses its social media savvy to create an online community of followers. They utilize Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp to reach their target audience and spread their message through the use of popular hashtags and the production of high-tech videos.

In May 2016, the Guardian reported that ISIS had even launched an Arabic language app called Huroof targeted at kids. The app teaches children the Arabic alphabet using cartoons, bright colors, and jihadist terminology.

While the US government and social media companies are doing their best to stem the spread of ISIS propaganda, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told CNN, “It’s something we need to do a lot more work on. We are seeing 90,000, I think, tweets a day that we’re combating.”

Who is at risk?

Children and teens, particularly Muslims, are at risk. While young boys are recruited to become fighters and girls are targeted to become the brides of ISIS fighters, ISIS is now shifting its social media tactics to encourage young followers in Western countries to commit acts of terror in their home countries, rather than traveling overseas to fight.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit research group, reports that terrorist groups recruit children for two reasons:

  1. Children are easier to brainwash, as their minds are impressionable.
  2. Recruiting children ensures a next generation of fighters.

ISIS recruits children as young as 12 and 13 to undergo military training, and the Taliban recruits children as young as 7 to carry out suicide bombings.

What’s the solution?

Individual social media users who create counter-narratives to extremist terrorist propaganda are often the best solution, since these grassroots narratives can be more powerful, personal, and compelling than the ones crafted by institutions and the government. Individual messages of hope and peace on social media can resonate, especially with children.

One such individual is Mohamed Amin Ahmed, a Somali-American father of four in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who has created a website called Average Mohamed and a series of short cartoons, aimed at Muslim American children ages 8 to 16, to counter extremist media. The Average Mohamed project is a counter-ideology mechanism that teaches kids, through colorful, easy-to-understand cartoon videos, to promote peace and anti-extremism.

Mohamed referred to himself on NPR as “an average guy espousing the values of majority Muslims.”

In additional to outreach and speaking events in schools, mosques, and the local community, Average Mohamed videos appear on social media, including in Facebook news feeds, to reach kids when they’re online.

What can parents do?

If your kids already have social media accounts, it’s important that you actively monitor their accounts. Tell them not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know and to come to you with any questions about any content they see on social media.

You can explain to them the importance of being a conscientious consumer of online content (i.e. not everything they read online is true), and help them identify propaganda versus factual information. With older children and teens, you can go deeper, explaining that propaganda often distorts reality and is created to influence people’s opinions.

Although we live in a complex world, there are both grassroots and governmental efforts in place to make the internet and social media safer for children, and to limit terrorist groups’ influence over young minds.

For more insights into how children and young people use social media, please visit and Like our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page.

 

cyber bullying - Note Pad With Text

What We Know About the Victims of Cyber Bullying

In May, we covered how parents can help their children deal with cyber bullying. With back-to-school season in full swing in the US, today we’re talking about the latest in cyber bullying research and how schools are combating internet bullying.

The statistics

Unfortunately, cyber bullying is a common phenomenon in the US—Inc. Magazine reports that 3 to 24% of children experience ongoing cyber bullying, and over 72% of children have experienced at least one cyber bullying incident. Furthermore, internet bullying is most likely to occur during 5th to 8th grade, but declines during high school.

Who’s most likely to be cyber bullied?

According to a recent study by Social Psychology Quarterly, girls are twice as likely to be cyber bullied than boys. And LGBTQ kids are four times as likely to be victims of cyber bullying as their heterosexual classmates. The study also found that cyber bullying is seven times more likely to occur between friends, either current or former, than between kids who aren’t close to each other.

The consequences

According to Inc. Magazine, children who have been cyber bullied are 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than children who haven’t experienced bullying. Victims of cyber bullying are also at risk for depression, as well as behavioral problems in school.

How schools are combating cyber bullying

Although the statistics may be bleak, the good news is that schools are stepping up their game to stop cyber bullying.

More and more schools are implementing hotline numbers where students can anonymously send a text message or call and leave a voicemail reporting a cyber bullying incident. The messages are forwarded to a school official who is designated to monitor reports of cyber bullying. The school official can then anonymously text the student back, thereby beginning a dialog and starting the resolution process.

Schools in Hardin, Texas, Wentzville, Missouri, and Austin, Texas, just to name a few, have implemented hotlines to tackle cyber bullying inside and outside of school.

Why hotlines help kids

These anonymous hotlines can help overcome the fear or embarrassment kids feel about reporting cyber bullying. And they can help eliminate the consequences of the bystander effect.

According to Inc. Magazine, cyber bullying can spiral out of control due to the bystander effect. This occurs when individuals in groups fail to speak up or help a victim when other people are present. The more people there are in a group, the less likely someone is to respond and help the victim. With a greater number of bystanders, the cyber bullying victim feels more embarrassed, especially if the bystanders contribute to the bullying. Plus, kids may be hesitant to step in and speak out against a cyber bully because of the fear of being ostracized by their peer group.

However, even if just one bystander speaks out against the cyber bully, not only will it help the victim, but it also may embarrass the bully and decrease the probability of the bully continuing.

How you can help

Talk with your child’s school to see what anti-bullying programs are already in place. If there aren’t any programs, you can urge your child’s school to set up an anonymous cyber bullying hotline, peer counseling and support groups, or educational programs to teach kids about the consequences of cyber bullying.

Finally, you can explain to your child that it’s important to speak up against cyber bullying, and not simply ignore it.

If you have insights into cyber bullying, please feel free to share them with our Safe Social Media community on Facebook, or log in to comment below.