Surveys indicate that around half of all children are victims of cyberbullies at some point during their time in school, and 11 percent of children have been bullied in the last 30 days. The Internet provides a free and anonymous tool for bullies to heap on the abuse.
Mary Kay Hoal, COO of Yoursphere.com, a safety-first social network for kids and teens, has studied cyberbullying and talked to parents around the country whose kids have been bullied online.
Her tips for parents to protect their children online include the following:
- Check for withdrawn behavior. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that children who are being bullied will act withdrawn, and may be reluctant to go to school or use the computer.
- Look for signs of depression and give your kids a hug. Parents should remind their kids that bullies largely thrive on the reaction they get from their victims and it’s the bully that has the real problem.
- Teach your children. “Be Kind Online” is a proactive message parents can share with their children.
- Give your kids tools to protect themselves. The message shared with children: “Don’t respond. Tell Your Mom. Make a copy,” gives kids a plan to protect themselves if there is abuse.
- Get their school or law enforcement involved. When the school gets involved, it is more likely that the bully’s parents will become aware of the problem and help to resolve the situation positively for all the students affected. If your child is ever threatened with harm, contact your local police.