I just finished reading an article about a 13 year old boy who was cyberbullied on Twitter because he was wearing his favorite football player’s new jersey. As if that weren’t bad enough, this super fan happens to have some physical challenges making the bullying , in my mind, all the worse. Luckily, this young fellow has parents who are on top of the situation and are making changes to ensure the welfare of their young teen.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. A recent study found that “one in five kids experiences cyberbullying on social media”. That is a staggering statistic. But it doesn’t end there. Cyberbullying isn’t the only worry parents have these days with so much of our lives being consumed with online activity. The more interaction we have online, the more opportunities we give to hackers, online predators, and scammers.
So what can parents do to ensure the safety of their children? Here are a few suggestions that could be extremely helpful.
First, utilise the tools and resources you have available. From installing parental controls like Qustodio to making sure your anti-virus software is up to date, there are easy and inexpensive ways to secure your information and safety. It does require a bit of research to see what services are available that fit your needs and budget.
The next step is not going to be popular with your kids, but it is a vital step for their well being: setting boundaries. My grandmother used to say, “Even too much sunshine isn’t good for you.” Meaning, everything should be in moderation, and this includes the amount of time spent in front of the screen.
And last but not least, interacting with your child is the best way to keep them safe in the online world. If you have an open dialogue with your kids that makes it easy for them to come to you when they encounter anything that makes them feel awkward or uncomfortable, you are already creating a safe environment for them. Spend time with them together online, learn to play the online games they enjoy, discuss the dangers that exist on the internet in a non-threatening but honest way. And find activities to do with them away from the screen to help build on the relationship you have with them.
Your children may not verbalize it, but they will notice the steps you are taking to help keep them safe, and they will be grateful for your efforts.