While cyberbullying is a growing problem for today’s teens, there are things you can do as a parent to protect your child from online bullies and other predators.
Learn how social networking websites work. If you’re not familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and other services, learn how to use them. Ask your children if they will show you their profile pages.
Communicate with your child. Discuss what she’s doing online and why. Set rules, and talk about them.
Limit screen time. Permit your child, say, a half hour on the Internet right after school to instant-message friends, play games, or visit social networking sites. After that, the computer is used for homework only and it’s an IM-free zone.
Do your homework. Check your child’s browser history to know where he or she goes online, and check the sites regularly. Use security tools and privacy features offered by your browser or Internet service provider for extra protection.
Make sure your child’s sites have privacy safeguards. One out of every five kids gets sexual solicitations online. Strangers, predators, and cyberbullies all target children, and their work is easy when screen names reveal age, gender, or hometown.
Know whom your child talks to online. Review her buddy list: does she really know everyone, or are some buddies “friends of friends”? Have her remove anyone whom she hasn’t met in person.
Tell him not to exchange personal information like a phone number, address, best friend’s name, or picture. No party invitations, revealing details, or meeting in person—ever.
Make sure your school has Internet Safety educational programming.
Look for warning signs that your child is being bullied. If your child becomes withdrawn, avoids certain places, becomes self-destructive, cries often, suddenly starts having trouble in school, or has physical symptoms such as stomachaches, she may be a victim of bullying.
The bottom line is stay aware and talk to your child regularly about what’s happening in his or her life. One great way to spark conversation with your child about privacy, online safety, and cyberbullying is by encouraging him or her to take part in READ magazine’s social media production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Running from April 26-28 the entire performance will take place on Facebook. Beginning at 4 p.m. (EST) and running over the course of three days, the action will unfold as characters update their Facebook feeds. Audience members also will have the chance to interact with the performers by commenting on their wall posts. This unique production is produced by READ and The Ophelia Project, a non-profit which works to support youth and adults “affected by relational and other non-physical forms of aggression.” The play is being staged to highlight Much Ado’s all-too-contemporary themes, especially how rumor, innuendo, and vicious lies can wreak havoc on young people’s lives. Learn more about the performance, and view a teaser video for the play, at the Weekly Reader web site.