9 Ways to Keep Your Kids (And Yourself!) Safer Online

Most children and teenagers believe that their parents lack computer knowledge.

They believe parents have difficulty understanding how cyber bullying works, the feelings it generates and how to assist with it.

Cyber bullying is now incredibly common, with almost every teenager having experienced some form of negative comment on a social media website.

Here are some tips to monitor your child’s behaviour online. You may be able to help them avoid being a victim or perpetrator of cyber bullying, or help them cope with it in an appropriate way.

1. Educate yourself. There are a lot of different social media sites out there that kids use in addition to Facebook (e.g. Instagram, Tumblr).  Do you know how they all work and what they are used for? If your teenager doesn’t want to explain to you how it all works, find out some other way. Get a younger colleague to show you all about it, do your own investigation or set up your own account.

2. Keep yourself up-to-date. The sites that are popular amongst teenagers can change every few months so you should be keeping a constant eye on things.

3. Find out how the privacy settings work on these sites and the information your teenager is sharing.

  • Does your teenager have their date or birth, suburb, email or phone number listed online? Why?
  • How many facebook friends does your teenager have? How many of these people does he/she actually know?
  • Does your teenager have location settings on their phone? Do they “check-in” to places they visit? Do you (and they) understand how others can use these to follow their movements
  • Do you (and they) know how to delete posts?
  • Do they know how to block people from seeing particular types of comments, stop people from commenting on their status, or ask for permission before allowing photos to be published of themselves?

4. Talk through cyber-safety decisions with your teenager. Some conversation topics may include:

  • Do they really need to accept every facebook friend request that they receive? (ie. Should they care if they insult their classmate’s cousin by rejecting their friend request?)
  • What do they use facebook for? Looking at photos? Publishing photos of themselves? “Stalking” friends or others?
  • How would they feel if they were without facebook for a day, a week, a month? Why?
  • Some questions they should be asking themselves before posting anything online? Who will see this?
    • How will others feel about this?
    • What are some possible responses I might get to this status/photo/comment?
    • What am I saying about myself by posting this?
    • Will I regret this later?

5. Ask questions. If you discover that your child has been receiving unusual messages, comments or friend-requests, don’t be afraid to ask (your teenager or the authorities) how they got your child’s contact details.

Involve your teenager in this process so that they can understand how easy it is for someone  to reach them.

6. Share information. You don’t want to frighten your child but if you hear a story about something unsavoury happening, share it with your teenager so they have an understanding of the tragic circumstances that can result from being unsafe online.

7. Empower your child to have a go at resolving some of the bullying themselves. Discuss options such as:

  • Avoidance (just block the person or change privacy settings)
  • Humour (ie. agree with the person)

8. Remember: Bullies tend to pick on people who give a reaction – they choose kids who get upset

  • Discourage your teenager from engaging in tit-for-tit insults with the other person
  • Discourage your teenager from any comments which may prompt the person to continue (e.g. writing “Why are you saying this to me?”)
  • Discourage your teenager from involving other people in their comments (“I don’t know why Mark is friends with you”)
  • Discourage your teenager from challenging the person in any way (e.g. “Why don’t you come find me at school and say that to my face?”)

9. Get outside help if necessary. If the cyber bullying continues, don’t be afraid to check your teenager’s internet history or to involve the school.

The effects of cyber bullying on a young person’s self-esteem and confidence should not be underestimated. If you feel that your child is becoming depressed or withdrawn, you notice changes in their behaviour or appearance, please consult a mental health professional.

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