Cyberbullying is back in the news, most recently because of a so-called “smut list” published online that targeted 100 teenage girls, some as young as 14, for being promiscuous. So Healthland asked two bullying experts — Elizabeth Englander, author of Understanding Violence, and Jonathan Singer at the Temple University School of Social Work — for tips for helping parents teach kids to avoid, cope with and understand the harm of digital abuse:
Make sure your kids know cyberbullying is wrong. Many kids don’t understand that when they write down and disseminate feelings of frustration, jealousy or anger toward others online, it can quickly escalate into problems in the real world. They also tend to think that what happens digitally “doesn’t count” and that digital abuse doesn’t hurt, especially since parents usually focus on their kids’ behavior in person.
So parents should educate themselves and their kids about the real-world impact of cyberbullying. If you see a story about cyberbullying in the newspaper or online, discuss it with your children and express your feelings of disapproval; reiterate your values and expectations for your children’s behavior. Encourage your kids to come to you quickly if anything gets out of hand online, and make sure they understand never to take revenge on anyone in cyberspace. (More on Time.com: Lessons on Cyberbullying: Is Rebecca Black a Victim? Experts Weigh In)
Take an interest in your kids’ online behavior. Kids tend to think their parents don’t know or care about their online lives. They fear that their parents, in not understanding, will simply take away their cell phone or computer if anything goes wrong.
So get involved in your children’s online behavior before harm occurs: make sure your kids know how you expect them to behave toward other people online; ask them how they communicate with their friends digitally and what kinds of problems typically pop up; explore with them how they think social networking may affect relationships between them and their friends.
Finally, ask your children to show you how they would report digital abuse if it happened to them, and reassure them that if they run into a problem online, you will talk first before taking any action. (More on Time.com: The Tricky Politics of Tween Bullying)