Monday, February 8, 2016

Cyberbullying: Keeping Your Child Safe From Online Bullies

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By Mark Kirkpatrick

It’s hard to overstate just how much children like technology. In fact, there might not be anything in history that’s drawn them in so powerfully. Unfortunately, technology isn’t without its dangers, and high up the list is cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?

As the name suggests, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online. In many cases, bullies are actually doing it more than playground bullying because it offers a degree of anonymity. Bullies are fundamentally cowards - they enjoy shows of dominance over others, but they don’t like doing it where they could get caught.

Common forms of cyberbullying include:

  • Masquerading: In this form of bullying, the bully pretends to be someone they’re not. They might lead this to lead their victim on (by pretending to be their friend and then tricking them), or simply use it as a venue to send messages without their real account getting blocked.
  • Exclusion: Here, a group of people specifically work to exclude someone from a group, then post negative messages (that will likely be forwarded to that person at a later point in time).
  • Outing: Cyberbullies focused on outing others are most interested in obtaining personal information that they can share with others. This usually includes things the person might not want others to know or see (such as their sexuality, private pictures, times when they’ll be alone, and so on).
  • Harassment: The most direct and obvious form of cyberbullying, harassment focuses on simply sending a lot of nasty messages. It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of messages may mean more to teens than they do to you - to interpret them properly, you’ll need to understand acronyms and what teens mean when they use them.
  • Flaming: This final variant is quite similar to harassment, but focuses mainly on making the victim angry.

What Can You Do About This?

We’ve talked a lot about the problems, so here’s some good news to go with it: Cyberbullying is usually very easy to stop. Most social networks are set up in the victim’s favor, and in many cases, the only thing they need to do is Block whoever’s harassing them. If they keep that up and avoid responding, it won’t be long until the bully gives up and goes to do something else.

Unfortunately, techniques like Masquerading are designed to get around this, and that’s why you need to be proactive in monitoring your child’s messages. Children aren’t always mature enough to realize when someone’s trying to lure them in for the purpose of betraying them, and even if they do realize they’re being bullied, they often hide it rather than telling an adult who could help resolve the problem.

More than anything else, most children fear having technology taken away from them. They’d rather suffer in silence than report anything that would make you think the internet is too dangerous for them, so stop this tendency at the roots by directly addressing it. If you take the time to explain what cyberbullying is, what it looks like, and how you’re going to help them respond, they’re far less likely to try and conceal what’s going on… especially if they know you’ll find out anyway.

Have any of your kids experienced cyberbullying? If so, how did you respond? Let us know in the comments below - we’d love to hear about what happened.

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