Community Voices

Crime Watch: Tips for parents and children to avoid becoming cyber-bullying victims

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

Many of you e-mailed me regarding my Aug. 23 article on cyber-bullying, as to what you can do as parents. Start by talking to your kids about the issue and teaching them the rules below, which will help prevent cyber-bullying 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 that you have to check!

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 e-mails from someone you don’t know or from someone you know is a bully.

▪ Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your classmates to see, even in an e-mail.

▪ 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 cyber-bullying and that they get involved in preventing it. Just as parents help their kids avoid inappropriate websites, they must protect them from cyber-bullying

Here’s what parents can do

▪ Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house. Check your child’s cellphone and tablet for messages and pictures.

▪ Set up e-mail and chat accounts with your children. Make sure that 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 cyber-bullying 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 cyber-bullied. 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 cyber-bullied.

If you would like brochures on cyber-bullying or Internet safety, contact our office or email me. You can also contact the National Crime Prevention Council at www.ncpc.org or Connect with Kids at http://websource.connectwithkids.com/welcome-to-websource. They have wonderful resources on the subject. You can also visit www.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 “nosey” 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 important 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 carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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