It feels like kids are stuck in a tech limbo. Everywhere you look, they are on their smartphones, laptops or tablets, completely engaged in a world that might seem complicated to their parents. Kids as young as 12 years old are familiar with smart devices and extremely active on social media, unaware of dangers such as cyberbullying, identity theft or predators.
Being a teenager is tough, and parents often feel overwhelmed when having to deal with their problems. This is probably one reason kids are reluctant to open up to their parents even when things get out of control. After being bullied, 29 percent of kids didn’t want to discuss it with their parents, while 28 percent keep it to themselves and 24 percent actually consider changing their looks, found a Bitdefender survey.
Below are some tips for parents who don’t know where to start.
Communication is key
- Show your child that you take their problems seriously. Learn how to recognize bullying and don’t assume it’s a phase that will just pass.
- Teenagers are often afraid they will be judged for their thoughts and actions. Build trust to get them to open up to you about cyberbullying episodes or any personal issues they might develop.
- Be ready to communicate with other parents about their kids and bullying behavior.
- Encourage kids to have face-to-face conversations more often and get rid of toxic friendships.
Victim or aggressor
- What if your child is the bully? This is also possible, as in many cases the bullied turns into a bully as a coping mechanism.
- Explain to your child that the internet is not a weapon they can use any time they please without consequences.
- Speak to your child from an early age about online safety, cyberbullying and the risks of sharing private information, videos and photos online.
- Tell them why it’s safer not to publish explicit photos and videos online or engage in gossip.
- Make sure they know that what is published online is part of their digital footprint. It will stay online forever and possibly misinterpreted or manipulated against them.
- Kids say they are mostly bullied on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Kik. Check if your child has accounts on these platforms and talk to them about their activity on them.
- MeetMe and Omegle are used to chat and meet with strangers. Teenagers not only admitted that they use them, but have about 16 strangers in their friend list and speak to about six daily, Bitdefender found.
Confiding in strangers
- Find out if they are talking to complete strangers and what kind of information they share about themselves and your family. You never know what predator may hide behind a sweet Facebook face.
- Most devices and software offer parental control, but communication with the child is key to understanding the risks, because the older they get, the more difficult it is to supervise their activity.
- Make screenshots, record the abuse as evidence and turn witnesses into allies.
- Cyberbullying is punishable by law so don’t be afraid to reach out to the nearest law enforcement division or youth center for further assistance or counselling.
Children need to be encouraged to ask for help if they have been a victim of online harassment, as not speaking about it or taking measures against it may have a significantly negative impact on their life.