In the old days, kids were made fun of on the playground, maybe pushed around, and there would be 10-30 kids there to witness it. Cyberspace is the 2013 version of the playground and with it comes potential for great danger, as its reach is massively unlimited. Its relative anonymity makes it a powerful tool for intimidation and limits the possibility of getting caught. It's also easier to be mean when there isn't face-to-face contact. This cowardly act of cyberbullying can lead to the spread of vicious rumors, lies, threats, harassment, stalking and embarrassment, and it strikes at the heart of what is critically important to most young people: social acceptance.
Here's what parents can do to safeguard their children:
- Know the signs of being bullied: feeling upset when online, withdrawal, not wanting to go to school, and depression.
- Educate them on what cyberbullying is so that they can recognize it. Provide examples of what is acceptable online behavior and what is not.
- Encourage kids to come to you if they feel they're being bullied.
- Keep the computer in a central location.
- Encourage kids to make friends offline, as bullies usually target those they see as isolated and leave kids alone who have a strong group of friends.
- Be careful about what personal information you post. Remember, whatever is out there is open to the masses.
- If there is an incident of bullying don't respond with hostility as bullies thrive on reactions and it will only escalate things. Document activities and collect evidence and if necessary report them to the authorities.
Finally, if you're a bully, or parent of one, ask yourself: What would you do if the person being bullied was your friend or child? How would you respond? Other than temporarily making you feel big and powerful, what is it you truly gain by bullying? What can you do to feel good NOT at the expense of others?
For more fearless tips, check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.