Safeguarding Kids from Cyber Bullying | By: Melissa Benaroya Your daughter receives a group text addressed to her saying, “Too bad you don’t have a date for the dance tonight!” Or maybe your son had a friend who takes an embarrassing picture of him sleeping and post it on Instagram for all of his classmates to see. The facts are the facts: cyber bullying is happening all around us! Cyber bullying attacks are silent. You may not see them, you may not hear them, but they’re there—over texts and emails and on social media. According to the latest statistics, almost 43% of children have been bullied online, and nearly 25% of them have been bullied more than once. This is no surprise when 80% of teens own a cell phone. Cyber bullying is bullying that takes place over electronic technology in the form of a phone, tablet, or computer. It’s often found on social media networking sites, websites, chat, and texting. It can take the form of humiliating videos or pictures or unkind emails, messages, and texts sent directly to an individual or to others to spread rumors. It happens so often because kids can hide behind their electronic devices and say things online they would never say out loud. So what are parents to do to protect their children? It’s simple: Set rules and keep talking! Set Rules About Phone and Device Use Children, like adults, are not mind readers, and most of us do better when we know the expectations up front. So when your children start showing interest in using a device for social purposes, talk them about your family’s limits for its use. You’ll be more successful in setting limits if you have these conversations long before issues arise. Being clear about these limits and actually following through can also help you avoid power struggles when it comes time to put the device away. Getting clear on expectations means establishing WHEN your children can use devices and the LENGTH OF TIME for which they may use them. Can they use them as soon as they get home, or do they need to wait until homework is completed? WHERE they can use their device is just as important. Are they allowed to do this in their room, or must they stay in the home’s common area to use their device? Being clear about WHAT apps they can download can also be critical to keeping kids safe. Stay Connected and Communicate It’s important that you show interest and talk to your children regularly about what they’re using their device for, what social media they use, and who they’re communicating with over the device. Let your children know that as a responsible parent you’ll be checking in on their accounts from time to time to ensure there are no issues or reasons for concern. Be sure to help your child set up privacy controls when setting up accounts on social networking sites to make sure private information is protected and shared only with friends. It can be helpful to install the same apps on your devices so you know how they work and how to talk with your children about what they’re sharing. Many parents assume that children know what cyber bullying is, so be sure to talk about the different ways one might bully or be bullied. Be specific about the definition so there’s no question about it when it may surface. Give your child specific examples of what cyber bullying might look or sound like. It can also be helpful to agree on a plan for what to do when your children suspect cyber bullying might be directed at them or others. Talk to your children about what it means to share over technology and the potential risks, dangers, and consequences. Tell them that what they share or post is permanent and can’t be recalled, and that something they share with one person may be distributed to others. Discuss the process of how to determine what they share and with whom. Lastly, teach your children to pause and think before they post. A few basic questions they can ask themselves before posting are: How does what I’m about to post portray me? Would I be okay if my grandparent saw this? Is this post in response to a big emotion (passion or anger)? Is it true, necessary, helpful, and respectful? Keeping kids safe and helping them make smart choices with technology is a critical role modern parents play. Cyber bullying is real, and the more we talk about it, clarify exactly what it looks and sounds like, and provide strategies to avoid and respond to it, the safer all our children will be.