Can parental supervision actually prevent cyberbullying? That’s the question on all of our minds, especially when we find out our kids are the victims of cyberbullies. When most of today’s parents were kids, bullying really only existed in a couple of forms – you were either bullied to your face, or the bully talked about you behind your back to other people. Those were both extremely hurtful and potentially harmful means of bullying, but our kids today have another platform entirely to be bullied (or to bully others) than we did – the internet.
Does Parental Supervision Help Stop Cyberbullying?
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Cyberbullying, in some ways, is even worse than traditional bullying because the bully is able to hide behind his or her screen. The bully can create a false profile or even be anonymous if he or she so chooses. This seems to cause people to have no filter, saying whatever they want regardless of whether or not they may hurt another person’s feelings.
As a parent dealing with this world for your kids, you may wonder if parental supervision makes a difference when it comes to keeping your kids safe from cyber-bullying. In short, the answer is yes! Having at least some sense of what your child is doing when she’s online is critical to protecting her.
So what steps do you take? There are two forms of supervision – direct and indirect.
- Direct supervision is a highly effective means of supervising your children when they are online, and it’s just what it sounds like – you’re there, watching your child’s interactions when he is on the computer or on his phone. Watch his body language when he’s using his devices to see if he looks upset or unhappy. The downside to direct supervision is that your child might try to find other means of getting online when you’re not there.
- Indirect supervision, therefore, is probably necessary to some extent, as well. There are lots of apps that are disguised as games or other seemingly “safe” items that with a secret code enable a messaging function (this was a new one for me – what will they come up with next?!). Together with your children, set ground rules for their time online. How will they access the internet (what device or devices)? How long are they allowed to spend online? Are they allowed on social networking sites? And, most importantly, how should they address with you any concerns they have?
If you’re concerned whether or not your child will follow these rules, you may take it a step further and monitor their online activity. With apps like PocketGuardian, you will receive alerts if cyberbullying or sexting is detected on their devices.
I’m a big believer that open communication with my children is key. While they are young enough now that they are not online, I anticipate when that time comes, we will discuss why we’re setting limits on their interactions. I want them to know that I love them and need to make sure they stay safe – and there is a lot that is not safe online. I also want them to know that they should always tell me when something feels wrong or makes them uncomfortable, including anything they see or read on the internet. I hope that this communication will help them feel safe talking with me regardless of what it is they are going through.
If you’d like additional resources, you might want to check out “How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online,” or the books Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying or Cyberbullying and the Wild, Wild Web: What Everyone Needs to Know.
It’s a scary world out there, and some preventative measures will go a long way toward keeping your kids from being the victims of cyberbullying. Or, at the very least, if they are targeted, they will have the tools to know how to handle it, with your help.