As overwhelming as the digital world may seem, there are many actions you can take to protect young people from being involved in cyberbullying as victims or as bullies.
Teach your child about digital citizenship & digital footprint
Online communications are changing constantly and new sites pop up all the time. The best way to protect young people is by teaching them how to use the internet appropriately and responsibly.
Digital citizenship is a set of standards for appropriate, responsible online behavior that can serve as guidelines for young people, and for the adults who are helping them to stay safe. For more information on digital citizenship and its role in preventing cyberbullying, check out the Digital Citizenship resource.
Digital footprint refers to the electronic trail left behind by any interactions you or your child has online. This includes message that your child sends, comments s/he posts, information s/he provides in online profiles, images s/he shares with others, or images shared by others about your child. Once they are part of a digital footprint, these comments and images are permanent, even if you make efforts to delete them.
Monitor your child’s digital media use
Digital media is a powerful tool that allows us to connect with each other across great distances. But as with any powerful tool, you are responsible for teaching your child how to use it safely.
Set your own rules for monitoring. Decide what sites you feel comfortable with and how involved you need to be in monitoring. You may want to use parental control tools that allow you to watch your child’s web activity. It’s important to let your child know that you will be monitoring their online activity to protect them—make sure you have their usernames and passwords. To respect your child’s privacy, don’t read any more than is necessary to ensure that your child is acting safely and appropriately online.
Many families also establish limits on digital media use. Some rules you might use: keep electronic devices in open areas where it is easy for parents to monitor; no cell phone use during family meals; no electronic devices in your child’s room at night. If you want to try making a written contract, check out the examples provided on this site.
Make Use of Privacy Settings
Very little that is shared on digital media is truly private. Help your children learn how to protect themselves by reviewing the privacy settings on their social media sites with them. Adjust the settings to share information only with people your child knows. Check the settings often, as the options can change when sites update their policies.
To bolster these privacy protections, make sure your child knows never to share full names, addresses, or phone numbers online. Children’s passwords should be shared only with their parents.