Sue Scheff: Parenting Tips to Keep Your Teens and Kids Safe in Cyberspace

Source: Reality Check Blog by Dr. Michele Borba

Here are few of many tips on Cyber Safety and Cyberbully from Dr. Michele Borba's book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions to help you keep your kids safe online.

•Hold a media talk. If your child isn’t talking about cyber-bullying, don’t assume he hasn’t been affected. Let him know you’re aware of the darker side of Cyberspace. Start the discussion:

“What have you heard about…” “What are the other kids saying?” Let your child know from the start using your family computer is a privilege and comes with responsibility. That privilege will be removed immediately if your child abuses your family’s rules.

•Don’t be too tough. This one sounds contradictory but here’s the low down: A study at Clemson University found that kids often did not tell their parents about cyberbullying for fear of losing online privileges. One study found that almost 60 percent of kids did not tell their parents when someone was abusive to them online. So don’t overreact or ban him from using the Internet altogether.

•Monitor your computer. Do you know what your child is doing online? Does she have a Xanga, use instant messaging, have a blog, visit chat rooms, frequent game rooms? Does your kid really need that fancy cell phone with all the attachments allowing straight Internet access?

•Provide clear electronic guidelines: “Never, ever put anything in an email, IM, blog, text-message or website that you would not everyone to see or would be hurtful. Never send anything you wouldn’t want said about you.” Or teach the headline test: “Would you want what you wrote printed up for all the world to read in front page headlines?” Police officers tell me that one reason cyberbullying is so rampant is that kids feel their actions can’t be tracked back to sender. Not so! Stress that new software allows law enforcement to discover the sender and are taking cyberbullying very seriously.

•Do NOT respond. Stress to your child that bullies seek reaction so don’t give the kid what he wants. Do not respond or click. It only will intensify things. If you do, the bully wins and usually will continue. Do not forward any vicious email to another party. The email, text, or message stays in your inbox. Turn off the monitor; walk away from the computer, and tell an adult. (Don’t turn off the computer. You will lose the evidence).

•Block communication. If your child is victimized change your phone number, your child’s password, and email account and talk to your service provider. Keep your child’s account numbers and passwords handy at all times. Have the phone number to your cell phone company and the URL of your computer server handy so you can change your child’s password and account in the event he is harassed.

•Don’t delete. You may need evidence to prove that your child is being cyberbullied. So tell your kid to not push that delete button too quickly. Instead save any evidence by printing out the message so you can use it later.

•Google your child. Periodically check to see what is being said about your child online. Seriously! Just put your child’s name in quotes into the search bar on your computer. How often does your child’s name come up? What kinds of comments are being said about your kid?

•Tell authorities. In some cases you may need to decide whether the situation warrants telling authorities or school officials. You may need to advocate for your child.

•Change your password. Passwords should periodically be changed and never given out. By the way, when’s the last time you changed your family’s password or your child’s password? Why not do so right now?

Cyberbullying is painful stuff and your child needs your empathy. So watch your child a bit closer. Tune into her emotional signs. Don’t let your child be victimized. And don’t let your child victimize others. In some cases, cyberbullying has caused depression and suicides amongst victims. Do what you need to do to protect your child.

Get more Parenting Solutions by following Michele Borba @MicheleBorba on Twitter or at .

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