Community Voices

Crime Watch: Tips to help your child avoid cyberbullying

The following information was provided by one of our partners AT&T Kelly Starling:

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), one in three students say they have been bullied at school. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that nationwide, 19 percent of students had been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey, while nearly 15 percent had been bullied electronically in that same time period.

While face-to-face bullying is still common, cyberbullying — bullying via email, text messages, instant messaging, chat rooms, social media sites, videos, and pictures — is on the rise, according to BullyStatistics.org. With most kids today carrying a mobile device, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior because:

▪ Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.

▪ Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.

▪ Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.

In light of Pink Shirt Day (Feb. 25), a national and local observance to encourage people to take a stand against bullying, AT&T has compiled a list of tips and tools that can help parents protect their children from cyberbullying and create awareness around the problem.

Anti-Bullying Tips and Tools

▪ Take advantage of parental controls. Ask your provider about parental controls available to you. For example, AT&T has Smart Limits which allows parents to block unwanted calls and texts from up to 30 numbers and restrict texting and data usage during specified times of the day.

▪ Be aware of what your kids are doing online. Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.

▪ Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.

▪ Tell your kids that as a responsible parent, you may review their online communications if you think there is a reason for concern.

▪ Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.

▪ Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.

▪ Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied. Let them know you will not take away their device if they confide in you about a problem.

▪ Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cellphones and other technology.

▪ Be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Show them how to be safe online.

▪ Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others.

▪ Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Think about how people who aren’t friends could use the information.

Remind them to keep their passwords safe and not to share them with friends because sharing that information could compromise their control over their online identities and activities.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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