This Crime Watch column originally ran in August 2015:
Many of you ask as parents what you can do about cyberbullying.
Start by talking to your kids about the issue and teaching them the rules below, which will help prevent cyberbullying from happening to them or someone they know.
One of the biggest challenges parents have nowadays is paying attention to what’s happening on your child’s cellphone, tablet, etc. It’s not just the computer anymore you have to check!
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Here’s what kids need to know:
▪ Never give out personal information online, whether in instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs or personal websites.
▪ Never tell anyone but your parents your password — not even friends.
▪ If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don’t respond. Save it or print it out and show it to your parents.
▪ Never open emails from someone you don’t know or from someone you know is a bully.
▪ Don’t put anything online you wouldn’t want your classmates to see, even in an email.
▪ Don’t send messages when you’re angry. Before clicking “send, “ ask yourself how you would feel if you received the message.
▪ Help kids who are bullied online by not joining in and by showing bullying messages to an adult.
It’s important that parents know about cyberbullying and that they get involved in preventing it. Just as parents help their kids avoid inappropriate websites, they must protect them from cyberbullying
Here’s what parents can do to help kids
▪ Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house. Check your child’s cellphone and tablet for messages and pictures.
▪ Set up email and chat accounts with your children. Make sure you know their screen names and passwords and that they don’t include any personal information in their online profiles.
▪ Regularly go over their “buddy list” and Twitter account. Ask who each person is and how your children knows him or her.
▪ Discuss cyberbullying with your children and ask if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.
▪ Tell your children that you won’t blame them if they are cyberbullied. Emphasize that you won’t take away their computer privileges or phone — this is the main reason kids don’t tell adults when they are cyberbullied.
If you would like brochures on cyberbullying or Internet safety, contact our office or email me. You can also contact the National Crime Prevention Council at ncpc.org or Connect with Kids at websource.connectwithkids.com/welcome-to-websource. They have wonderful resources on the subject.
You can also visit NetSmartzKids.org, an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children that we partner with through our school Youth Crime Watch programs.
Parents, you have many excellent resources. Use them. You need to check those computers, their phones or iPads. Be a “nosy” parent. I know it’s not easy but working with school police, teachers and administrators can help you as a parent, as well as your child. Most importantly, you are opening communication with your son or daughter.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami—Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305—470—1670.