Tips for Preventing Cyberbullying
The staff of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has put together a two-page document on digital safety and cyberbullying that includes simple, common-sense tips – such as keeping communication open and watch for warning signs – as well as Web sites to visit for more information.
The following are some tips parents can do to share in the responsibility of ensuring safety for our students:
- Talk to your kids. The first, best piece of advice: keep the lines of communication open. Ask questions about things you don’t understand. Here are suggestions for questions parents should ask.
- Listen to your kids. Learn their lingo. Also listen for the names of websites and apps which they may be accessing. Different ages, different schools, different social groups often use social networking sites – many of which you have never heard of! Build that into your talks.
- Sign a contract. Be clear. Be straightforward. Establish the expectations and rules by which you and they will use their technologies.
- Check. As part of your contract, let them know that you will check on their activities from time to time. Know, too, that you may not have knowledge of nor access to all their personal sites.
- Filter. Block. Monitor. Use whatever filtering, blocking or monitoring software you have and are comfortable with. However, do not rely of these technological tools. Remember, digital safety issues are social, developmental, human issues. Also remember, kids are savvy enough to work around the software tools!
- Teach appropriate online behavior. Respect, honesty, personal values in “real” life should be reflected online. Savvy as young people are, they often do not consider the speed at which things occur, the very public nature of life online, the permanency of their posts and pictures, and the fact that, once posted, nothing can be taken back. They also need to understand that they are not anonymous! Whatever is spilled on the internet cannot be swept away.
- Watch for warning signs. Be aware of signs of distress related to tech use: anger, fear, talk of violence. Be aware of names of new “friends”, or the absence of known friends, becoming withdrawn or obsessively online. Watch for signs of secrecy – beyond the norm. Watch for disrupted sleep patterns.
- Model appropriate behavior, yourself. Do you send inappropriate messages or pictures? Do you text while driving? Do you tease, harass or otherwise torment others? Young people watch us, and learn from what they see us doing.
- Talk among yourselves. Talk with your kids’ friends’ parents. Talk within your community. Talk to your school. Create a parent support group. Sometimes, a young person will share with someone else what they wouldn’t share with their own parents.
- Remember, and this is very important, most young people are perfectly safe online most of the time. They are doing amazing things. Creating rich communities. Living with great, self-generated rules and protocols. But sometimes, they do need us.