As we all look forward to the sunshine and freedom of summer, it’s important to remember that not all elements of the school year disappear with the ringing of the final bell. In our increasingly digital age, cyberbullying has become a pervasive issue that can affect kids even during their summer break. This guide will help parents understand the issue, recognize the signs, and provide practical strategies to protect their kids from cyberbullies.
The Reality of Summer Cyberbullying
Summer break should be a time of fun-filled days, exploration, relaxation, and a break from the rigors of the school year. However, with the increase in leisure time comes a corresponding increase in screen time, and, unfortunately, this often results in an uptick in instances of cyberbullying. As the McAfee survey in 2014 revealed, 87% of teenagers reported witnessing cyberbullying, a significant increase from the previous year. The reasons for being targeted varied, with appearance, race, religion, and sexual orientation all cited as factors. Given this reality, parents must remain vigilant during the summer months. Keeping an eye on your child’s online activities, encouraging open communication, and intervening when necessary can make the difference between a summer of fun and one of fear and isolation. → Dig Deeper: More Dangers of Cyberbullying Emerge—Our Latest Connected Family Report
Things Not to Do
When confronted with bullying, our instinctive reactions aren’t always the best. Here are three things you should avoid doing when addressing cyberbullying:
- Telling your child to ignore the bullying. The nature of social media can amplify the impact of bullying, making it impossible to overlook simply.
- Blaming the child for being bullied. Even if your child made poor decisions or inadvertently instigated the situation, nobody deserves to be bullied.
- Encouraging physical retaliation. Fighting back can escalate the situation and put your child in physical or legal danger.
3 Ways to Avoid Bullying Online
Prevention is the best cure, and there are several proactive steps you can take to minimize the risk of your child being cyberbullied:
- Make profiles and photos private. Insist on privacy settings for all social profiles. This confines your child’s online circles to known friends, reducing the likelihood of cyberbullying.
→ Dig Deeper: Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media
- Avoid risky apps. Certain apps, like ask.fm, Kik Messenger, and Yik Yak, are associated with higher rates of cyberbullying due to their allowance of anonymous interaction. Ensure these are off-limits for your child.
→ Dig Deeper: Beware of Malicious Mobile Apps
- Don’t invite criticism. The online culture often encourages kids to seek approval through “likes” or “ranks” of their photos. Discuss the risks involved in this behavior and remind your child of their worth outside these superficial metrics.
3 Things to Do if Bullied Online
Despite taking precautions, there may be instances where cyberbullying can’t be immediately prevented. In such situations, it is crucial to know what steps to take to mitigate the impact and bring the bullying to an end:
- Tell someone. It’s important for the child to confide in a trusted adult, somebody who can help manage the situation appropriately. Encourage open communication from the start. Many times, kids withhold information about bullying, allowing it to escalate unchecked. Monitor your child’s online behavior discreetly, paying attention to the tone and content of their interactions. It’s also crucial to provide emotional support and reassurance to children who are being targeted, as they may be suffering from fear, embarrassment, or feelings of isolation.
- Save the evidence. Make sure to keep a record of bullying incidents – texts, emails, social media posts, or screenshot conversations. These might provide valuable information to address the situation and serve as evidence if the need to report to authorities arises.
- Report serious incidents to the police. If cyberbullying escalates to the point where it includes threats, intimidation, or any form of sexual exploitation, it’s time to involve the authorities. Report the situation to the police and specific social networks where bullying occurs. Websites such as StopBullying.gov provide comprehensive resources to understand your rights better and get the help you need.
Supporting Your Child
Addressing the issue of cyberbullying can be a complex task. The emotional wounds inflicted by this abuse can be deep and long-lasting. Therefore, it’s indispensable that your child feels supported and understood. Maintain an open line of communication with your child, creating a secure and trusting environment where they can comfortably express their feelings and fears. It might also be beneficial to seek professional help when dealing with cases of severe bullying. Therapy or counseling can provide your child with effective coping strategies, helping them regain their confidence and self-esteem. McAfee Pro Tip: While numerous aspects of the digital world remain beyond our control, one aspect where we wield significant influence is our commitment to protecting the well-being of our family members in both the digital and mental realms. Mental health always matters. Find ways to support your child online and offline.
Teaching Empathy and Respect Online
Preventing cyberbullying starts at home. By teaching our children the values of empathy and respect, we can contribute to a more positive online culture. Incorporate digital citizenship lessons into your everyday conversations, emphasizing the importance of treating others kindly offline and online. Teach your children to think before they post and remind them that behind every screen, there’s a real person who can be hurt by their words. Building respect and empathy can discourage cyberbullying and inspire children to stand against it. → Dig Deeper: Cyberbullying’s Impact on Both Society and Security
Parenting in the digital age brings with it new challenges and responsibilities. Cyberbullying is a significant issue that requires our attention and vigilance, especially during the summer when screen time increases. Equip your child with the right tools to protect themselves online, foster open communication at all times, and support them in the face of adversity. Remember, the goal is for our children to enjoy their digital interactions and have a safe, enjoyable summer free from the threat of cyberbullying. Improve your family’s digital habits, privacy, and safety with McAfee’s Parental Controls. This security tool allows parents to oversee device usage, establish screen time restrictions, and even track the locations of their children.
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