Teaching Your Kids To Avoid Social Media Nightmares

As children learn to navigate the digital world, so must their parents. In this way, parents can ensure the safety and privacy of their children, particularly on social media. Parents should be aware of all aspects of social media sharing, privacy, cyberbullying, and the unique uses of social networks.

Being able to monitor children’s activity on social media and educate them on best practices and safety measures is crucial for protecting them from the potential dangers of social media. One of the most serious dangers to be aware of is cyberbullying.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is becoming more and more of a problem for teens and preteens. According to StopBullying.gov, “the 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that 6% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey finds that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year.”

As these numbers are on the rise, more children are at risk, and it is important for parents to understand what cyberbullying is.

“’Cyberbullying’ is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones,” according to StopCyberbullying.org. “It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.”

Cyberbullying may seem innocent to some, but its destructive nature can be extremely harmful to children and their reputations. Cyberbullying includes anything from a tweet that puts down a classmate to a compromising photo that can damage someone’s self-esteem or reputation.

These instances often occur over a period of time rather than in a single communication. Because social media is online and linked to people across the world, cyberbullying communications can travel fast, and they often cannot be removed. Even if they are removed, they are still saved on a server somewhere, so they never truly disappear.

Cyberbullying can also include bits of online gossip. It may seem innocent to children to share this gossip, not only in person but over the Internet, but gossip is just as damaging on social media, if not more so, as it can spread quicker and is a part of searchable public domain. This type of negative gossip is also considered a type of cyberbullying.

Often times, a child who is a cyberbully in one instance may become the victim of another occurrence and then cyberbully someone else again. This type of ongoing and flip-flopped harassment appears to be more common in the online world than in real life. The reasons are unclear, but may deal with how much easier it is to fight and bully back over the Internet, in comparison to doing so in person.

How Can Cyberbullying And Online Gossip Hurt Children?

If you think cyberbullying is simply online banter that can’t hurt children, think again. Following instances of cyberbullying, children have committed murder and suicide. Factors that come into play in these terrifying acts are generally the severity of what has been said, the breadth of where that information has spread and the number of incidents over a period of time.

In addition to damaged reputations and the worst possible consequences, cyberbullying may result in criminal charges, such as a misdemeanor cyberharassment charge or a charge of juvenile delinquency, though this does not often happen.

To prevent cyberbullying by or to a child, parents should educate their children on cyberethics and the severity of consequences that can result from cyberbullying. If a child is being cyberbullied, his parents should do what they can to put an end to the harassment immediately, whether that is by confronting the parents of the cyberbully or by going to the proper authorities, either at school or the police.