More than 40 percent of all teenagers with Internet access have reported being bullied online, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.
It presents a daunting challenge to parents who want to ensure their children's safety in today's technology-driven communications environment. Brad Miller, CEO of web-monitoring software company Awareness Technologies, offers these tips to knock it out before it starts.
1. Start by talking with your children about their online activities and the dangers of cyberbullying. Set their expectations by discussing your views on monitoring their Internet and smartphone use.
2. Set up Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your children's names on the web.
3. Friend your children on Facebook and monitor their privacy settings so you are able to view their profile and activity.
4. In addition to Facebook, cyberbullies use other social networking sites like Twitter to post hateful messages. Familiarize yourself with these sites and set up an account to enable you to routinely search what others are saying about your kids.
5. Inform teachers if you suspect your child is being cyberbullied. Teachers are among the first to notice important changes in children's behavior, and it's possible the bully may be a classmate.
6. Consider implementing parental monitoring software on your home computers and children's smartphones.
7. Many school districts also now use computer monitoring software on all classroom computers. Check with your school principal, PTA or school board to ensure these tools are in use at your child's school.
8. Prohibit your children from having multiple e-mail addresses, screennames and social networking accounts.
9. Prohibit your children from using geolocation tools and apps on Facebook and smartphones.
10. Always be observant as your children use electronic communications tools. Changes in habits, such as frequency and timing of use, mood swings and other indicators, could be a sign that your child is being bullied or a target of other online mischief.