How to Protect Your Kids From Cyberbullying, Online Harassment Predators, and Dangerous Websites

When we were kids, bullying mostly happened at school or in the neighborhood. Back then, it was easier for parents to spot trouble as we were usually out playing all day. They didn’t hear from us until dinner, and nobody was too worried. If a problem arose, there was a quick discussion with another parent, which was usually resolved quickly. The world was a lot simpler.

Enter the world of internet bullying. It’s the Wild West for kids and parents today. So much is happening online that it takes effort to keep up. As a parent, you may feel fearful and overwhelmed about online abuse, but where do you begin? Are you supposed to look at your kid’s phone daily to see what’s happening? Where does privacy begin and end? These are very tricky questions. You want to teach your kids to be independent and manage things for themselves, but when is it time to cross the boundary? With the speed of technology, it’s difficult for schools and lawmakers to establish mutually agreed-upon safe practices. There is no code of ethics or cyberbullying laws yet. So, what do you do as a concerned parent?

We’ve put together some suggestions as well as a list of resources for cyberbullying support. For example, an app will notify you and flag certain words if your kid is having inappropriate discussions online.

To begin with, you can apply the social norms you already know. You teach your kids to be good citizens in general, and now you need to teach them Digital citizenship and to use their devices in balanced, safe, and socially acceptable ways. Here are some ideas for online safety and cyberbullying prevention:

It’s unkind to talk badly about people behind their backs. How would they feel if others were talking badly about you? 

Looking at your phone when conversing with someone or at a meal is not polite. How would you feel if you were trying to tell a friend something and they were looking at their phone? Being present and actively listening in a conversation is essential.

Do not share photos of other people or post them without their permission. Would you like it if others shared photos about you without your consent?

Ask them to consider including or excluding people and how they would feel if everyone was in on a conversation except them.

Maintain an open dialogue and environment where kids feel safe to share challenging topics with their parents or other adults they trust.

Some parents have a cell phone contract with their kids. An agreement that contains things like what happens if the phone gets lost or broken and who is responsible for replacing it. Some parents feel that there should be no phones allowed in the bedroom, depending on the age of the kids, because that’s where inappropriate photos begin. It also opens the door to secrecy. Think about your values and guiding principles for your family and make your list of what’s most important.

Ultimately, devices can be used for good with tremendous resources and ways to learn things that were never available before but without boundaries and instructions on how to use them. We must teach them how to use their cell phone safely and feel powerful about it.

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