In the age of the internet, the biggest enemy is Cyberbullying. In today’s world where children and the internet are inseparable, it is important now more than ever to address cyberbullying. India is ranked the highest when it comes to cyberbullying constantly from 2011- 18 and the situation continues so.
It is the stuff of our nightmares, you never expect it to happen to your dear ones. But evil doesn’t discriminate. So, it is important that we know how to protect our little ones from the dark side of the net. Here are 7 ways in which we can protect children from cyberbullying.
- Communication is the key
The first step to solving any problem is communication and this problem is not any different. Talk to your children about it. Discuss with them what is right and wrong. When it comes to maintaining privacy, children don’t understand what is okay and what is violating their own privacy.
On the social media platforms your child is his/her worst enemy. Most of the time they have trouble understanding what is appropriate for the world to see and what is not. These cyber bullies lurk around in the shadows of the web until your child slips up and posts something dangerous. They swoop in then and make your child’s life miserable.
If your child comes to you with an important or silly (silly for you) secret, protect it with your life. Nothing else is going to make them trust you more than this.Let them know that their personality on the internet does not define who they are. Teach them the difference between virtual and reality.
- Keep learning
When it comes to your child’s safety there is no such thing as too much research. Keep learning and keep teaching. Keep learning about newcases, new security procedures, and preventive measures. You need to be educated about this field, nothing should come as a shock to you. When it comes to virtual safety it doesn’t hurt to be a ‘know it all’ (does it ever?)
Encourage them to ask you as many questions as they want. And to be able to answer their questions you should research on these topics beforehand so that you yourself can learn first and then help your child.
Awareness and understanding is paramount
Children facing anxiety, depression and or other psychological conditions are an easy target for cyberbullies. Children battling these conditions already have a lot going on and cyberbullying makes the situation worse. There is a certain stigma around these psychological conditions that makes people hide these conditions from everyone and children are no different.
Have an open mind. First things first, it is nothing to be ashamed of about these things. Your child needs to know that they can always expect support, understanding, and maturity from their parents. No matter what happens be their support system. Children need to hear it from you that everything is going to be okay, and to give them this assurity you need to be assured. The more you are aware about these things, the better you can handle everything.
- Some boundaries are necessary
Whenever your child is ready to enter the world of the net you have to put certain restrictions on them for their own good. Set parental controls where necessary and forbid them from accessing the part of the net that is not appropriate for them (easier said than done!).
Don’t blindside them about these rules and regulations, keep them in the loop when making these rules and regulations. Don’t let them have accounts on certain social media platforms until you think they are ready and explain to them calmly as to why these precautionary measures are necessary.
This does not mean that you invade their privacy, it won’t end well. The solution for protecting them from cyberbullying is not keeping them away from the ‘cyber’ part,the solution is protecting them from the ‘bully’ part. If you want to protect your child from bullying at school, your solution isn’t making them sit at home and avoid school, not that your kids won’t enjoy this holiday, you tackle the bully situation. The same is valid for these virtual bullies
- Get involved
Be in touch with your child on social media too. Virtual support is just as important. Get to know where all your children have accounts and what kind of things they post or share on that platform. If you feel that what they are sharing crosses the limit, tell them so in a calm manner and don’t create a huge debacle out of it.
Having said that, do not pester them for petty reasons or criticize their every move. Times have changed since you were a child and the parameters have changed for what is appropriate and inappropriate. Make sure that you have factored in the time parameter before criticizing them.
When your children finally connect with you on social media make sure you don’t make them regret their decision of accepting your connection by being judgmental about every little thing .
- Look for sudden changes
If your child has suddenly started isolating themselves from their friends and you, or if you notice a change in behavior that is not characteristic of them then be alert. It might just be them growing up or there could be a more sinister reason behind these sudden changes, whatever may be the reason it doesn’t hurt to ask them what is going on with their lives. When it comes to being safe,paranoia may not be the worst plan of action.
A simple ‘are you okay, you don’t seem like yourself lately’ is enough for them to know that there is someone in this world that cares for them. It might be nothing or it might be something, but to be on the safer side always ask.
- Involve schools
Talk with your child’s school to address this issue so that there is a greater impact about the seriousness of cyberbullying. Arrange seminars for awareness programs and encourage students to come forward about anything they might have faced or seen someone face so that they can collectively fight it.
May it be your child or anyone else, always help those that come forward about cyberbullying or any such serious issue. Don’t neglect any concern that is brought in front of you.