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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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How to help your kids deal with cyber bullying

Last week we spent some time discussing the difference between cyber bullying and other kinds of bullying, as well as the negative effects felt by victimised children. You can read more about these topics here.

This week, we’re focusing on what you as a parent can do if your child is the victim of cyber bullying.

If you have insights into this important topic, please feel free to share them with our Safe Social Media community on Facebook.

Cyber bullying – an overview

Studies show that 1 in 5 children in Australia, aged between 8 and 15, will experience cyber bullying. With this statistic in mind, it is quite possible that you will need to help your child deal with this challenge at some point in their life.

This is the second blog in a 2-part series on cyber bullying amongst children. The first part focuses on identifying whether your child is being victimised by cyber bullies, so you know whether to take action.

Head here to read more about what to watch out for.

What can I do?

Here are our top tips for helping your child deal with the challenges of cyber bullying:

1. Do not minimise their upset or pain

If your child tells you they are being cyber bullied, be careful not to minimise the issue.

Cyber bullying has a big impact on children and adults alike, so it is important to make your child feel heard and understood, especially if they are approaching you for support.

Consider responding with something like, ‘I am so sorry to hear this is happening to you, it must be very upsetting.’ From here, you can start to create a plan to deal with the cyber bullying, but keep in mind that helping your child emotionally is just as important as stopping the cyber bullying in its tracks.

2. Watch out for signs of depression or anxiety

Is your child eating the way they normally would? Are they withdrawn? Are they sleeping more or less than usual?

If you do notice your child’s behaviour has changed, it may be a symptom of the bullying they are experiencing. At this point, we recommend taking your child to a GP or health care professional, who can then refer them to a trained child psychologist.

Kids Matter* is a great website, which features information on how to identify depression in children, and practical steps parents can take. Read their information on depression in children here.

* Kids Matter is run by the Australian Government, beyondblue, Early Childhood Australia and the Australian Psychological Society.

3. Keep the computer in a public space at home

We touched on this strategy in a previous eebudee blog. The idea is to create a common area of the home, usually the lounge room, where computer devices can be used. If you’re not in this room, any tablets, phones or laptops are stored in a big basket or on a table in plain view.

If your child is being cyber bullied, it is then not happening in private. Secretive computer use may signal that something is happening in your child’s online life.

If they only use their computer when you or other members of the family are around, then they are not alone if cyber bullying does occur.

4. Know what social networks your child is on

Many parents now ask their children to provide usernames and passwords for all of the social media networks they are on. This is especially important for young children, as they are still developing their ability to assess and manage risk.

You don’t need to constantly check up on your little one, but checking in when you can will help you identify whether cyber bullies are targeting your child. On the flipside, if your child knows you have access to their accounts, they are more likely to think before posting something inappropriate.

5. Contact the bully’s parents

Although it may be difficult to approach the parents of the child bullying your child, it is often the best and most direct way to stop cyber bully from getting any further. It’s also an opportunity to ask the parent to take down the inappropriate content relating to your child.

Consider that cyber bullying is known to have a significant impact on the mental health of children (and adults too!, so as uncomfortable as it may be to contact the bully’s parents, it is important to your child’s ongoing wellbeing.

6. Take practical steps

If your child is being cyber bullied, we recommend printing and saving the offensive messages as evidence of the bulling incident or incidents. That way you can show the school, the bully’s parents or in some cases, the authorities, what your child has been exposed to.

It may seem like overkill to get the authorities involved, but if you have approached the bully’s parents and upsetting or offensive content continues to be posted about your child, it may be necessary to get the law involved.

Keep in mind that showing your child how to stand up for themselves is an important lesson. Even though no parent wants to see their child endure the trauma of cyber bullying, there is a silver lining, if you take the right steps towards resolving the situation.

Find out more

For more information on cyber bullying and safe social media practices for young children, please visit our blog.

You may also be interested in signing up for eebudee, a social media network that helps kids under 12 learn how to handle cyber bullying and other challenges associated with online life.

eebudee is completely secure, and designed for the whole family. Head here to sign up.