THERE SEEMS TO BE a constant stream of news around cyberbulllying and cyberstalking incidents and the tragic consequences for kids who do not know how to handle these situations. Whether the instances of bullying are rising or simply just getting more media attentions is up for debate, but there is no doubt that cyberbullying is affecting society's most precious resource: our children.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, 20.8% of kids ages eight to 10 report that they have been cyberbullied at least once in their life, while 88% of social media-using teens say they have witnessed someone being mean or cruel on a social media site. Even more alarming might be the fact that, while only seven percent of U.S. parents are worried about cyberbullying, 33% of teenagers report that they have been victims of cyberbullying.
The Internet provides more than ample opportunities for children to bully one another anonymously. Kids can embark on impressive and terrifying bullying campaigns, drawing in dozens of other completely anonymous children. Even a child who never does anything risky online is at risk of being bullied.
Every state in the country should have strong, effective laws against cyberbullying, but these new laws only will be effective if parents get engaged in the process of educating and protecting their kids online and on the mobile phone. However, many parents are struggling to understand what cyberbullying is and what steps they need to take to determine how to address it with their own children.
With open communication, parents can prevent cyberbullying by teaching their children good citizenship, instilling self-confidence, and showing them how to use privacy settings. If their children are attacked, parents can help minimize the damage by saving evidence and reporting threatening behavior. The more educated parents are, the more likely they are to notice when their children are being victimized or, worse, participating in the harassing--and what actions they need to take with the school administrators and, if necessary, law enforcement.
Parents want to think that their kids are safe and that they will not be the victim of cyberbullying but, even parents who know their children's friends, or feel they communicate well with their offspring, still must be aware that children reside in a their own world in addition to the one adults do. Kids may try to hide problems from their parents, thinking they can deal with it on their...