(Ping! Zine) – A year ago, many did not know what cyberbullying was. Today, parents all over the country are concerned about it, and want to know what to do to prevent it. 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.
“Our kids’ online lives can sometimes be a mystery to parents,” said Mary Kay Hoal, COO of Yoursphere.com, a positive place for kids online. “Whether it’s because they set up multiple profiles on social networking sites and hide them from their parents or because not every parent is technologically savvy enough to see what is going on, it’s important for every parent to know how to tell if their children are victims of cyberbullies, and how to prevent it and stop it in its tracks.”
Hoal has studied cyberbullying, talked to parents around the country whose kids have been bullied online, and uses unprecedented measures to keep cyberbullies off her Web site. Her tips for parents to protect their children and to spot signs if a parent suspects their child may be a victim of bullying include:
• Check for withdrawn behavior — The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that children who are being bullied will act withdrawn, and may be reluctant to go to school or use the computer.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 – Kids often feel like something is wrong with them when they are being bullied and they may feel all alone. 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. It’s an important first step towards educating children about the way they should treat others online.
• Give your kids tools to protect themselves — The message shared with children: “Don’t respond. Tell Your Mom. Make a copy,” gives kids exactly the information they need to make sure they can protect themselves and an action plan for parents if there is abuse.
• Get their school or law enforcement involved — After the most recent trouble in Massachusetts that finds school officials being named in lawsuits because of the assertion that their inaction led to the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, parents may find teachers and guidance counselors will be more proactive in halting or preventing the bullying of their students. Many bullies are victims themselves, sometimes suffering from problems at home. 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.
“We know far more about the causes and devastating results of cyberbullying than we ever did, and it is incumbent upon everyone in a child’s life — parents, friends and school officials — to take a role in halting and preventing cyberbullying,” Hoal added. “The Internet is an integral part of all our lives, and the benefits for Internet savvy kids are boundless, but there can be a very concerning dark side to our children’s online interactions. We need to eliminate those pressures so our children can reap the benefits of living in a world made smaller by the Internet, and promote an Internet culture that focuses on the wonders of the online world, and not its dangers.”
About Mary Kay Hoal
A proud wife and mother of five children (both biological and adopted, ranging in age from 6 – 19 years old), Mary Kay faces the same challenges every parent does. After researching the disturbing landscape of what awaits children online — including endless inappropriate content, adult strangers interacting with children, and a culture that supports negative behavior — Mary Kay conceived and founded Yoursphere.com and YoursphereForParents.com.