When Denise Edwards (not her real name) saw a text on her 11-year-old son's phone that said, "Im gonna kill you 2mrw" from an unrecognized number, her heart stopped. She asked her son about it and was shocked to hear an older boy on his bus had been sending these types of texts for about two months.
Experts estimate that teens are at least four times more likely to say something hurtful or demeaning to another child when behind the veil of a phone or computer.
Tim Woda, a digital safety expert, explains: "Cyberbullies are often not the biggest kids on the playground or the meanest girls at school. If you want to protect against cyberbullying, parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing online and be willing to act quickly when they see a red flag."
Here are a few tips for parents to prevent cyberbullying:
* Talk about it: The best defense is a good offense. Ask your child how they would respond if someone were mean to them online. What should they do? Is it okay to forward a text message making fun of someone?
* Spot it: Cyberbullying can cause kids to avoid using their phone or computer, or appear stressed when receiving an e-mail or text. They may act reluctant to attend social or school events or avoid conversations about school or friends. In extreme cases, the child will have declining grades, stop eating or have difficulty sleeping.
* Deal with it: Teach them to never respond, save the evidence and report the incident to an adult they trust. Next, engage school administrators to discuss their cyberbullying policy and develop a plan of action. Finally, talk about the situation with the bully and the parents. Sometimes a school guidance counselor can act as a mediator for this type of meeting.
* Prevent it: Stealing your child's phone or their passwords to social networking accounts is not an ideal way to understand what's going on in their digital world. Use a parental intelligence service, such as uKnowKids.com, that can alert you to dangerous behavior and cyberbullying. The best time to install parental monitoring software is the moment a child gets a social media account or mobile phone so kids accept it for the long run.
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