Social Networking Safety
- Glossary of Terms
- Recommended General Resources
- Parental Controls
- What Parents Can Do to Ensure Safety
According to StopCyberbullying.org, cyberbullying is "when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones." The organization notes that there has to be involvement of a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. When adults are involved, then it can become simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Just as in real life, face-to-face bullying occurs over a period of time.
To realize just how damaging cyberbullying can be, the case of 13-year-old victim Megan Meier stands as an example. Details.
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
- 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
- 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
- 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
- 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Based on 2004 i-SAFE survey of 1,500 students grades 4-8
- The primary cyberbullying location where victimizing occurs is in chat rooms (56 percent). 49 percent are victimized via instant messages and 28 percent via email.
- 41 percent of victims do not tell anyone in their off-screen lives about their abuse, but 38 percent did tell an online friend.
- The situation only improved for 19 percent of victims when they did tell someone about the bullying.
- More than half of study participants feel that cyberbullying is as bad, or worse, as bullying in real life.
Adapted from youth research compiled at CyberBullying.us.
StopCyberbullying.org offers excellent resources for parents about cyberbullying, including how do you know it when you see it, a quick guide to responding to a cyberbullying incident, what methods work with different kinds of cyberbullies, and much more.
For videos that illustrate experiences of teens being harassed online, go to the NetSmartz.org website. (Note: These videos are geared toward the middle school age group.)
Stopcyberbullying.org gives you the escalating levels of response to cyberbullying.
A cautionary article on teen "sexting" ("A Girl's Nude Photo, and Altered Lives, by Jan Hoffman, New York Times, March 26, 2011)
Federal and District Policies:
Computer operating systems come with controls so that parents can block websites or track history of use:
For parents who want to know if their child is being bullied online, there is monitoring software available. A comparison of the available monitoring software is offered on the PC Magazine website. Top Ten Reviews also reviews monitoring software.
What Should You Know?
Forums for online communications have grown and changed so quickly, and so have safety concerns. There is a lot that a parent has to think about when considering online safety: how a child's postings on the Internet today will affect his or her future tomorrow; how a child can be accidentally exposed to hate speech; how too much time spent online compromises the development of "real" social skills; and more. Here are some facts and accompanying resources to increase your awareness:
- ANY page from ANY time can be viewed, even if your child thinks they have deleted it. (Yes, this means college admissions personnel can dig up compromising photos or find unflattering material written by or about a prospective candidate--and they are looking!) The proof can be found at http://www.archive.org/web/web.php.
- Youth online can be exposed to solicitation, inappropriate material, and harassment. NetSmartzKids provides videos on proper online use at http://www.netsmartz.org/NetSmartzKids (resource no longer available)
- CommonSense Media provides a number of articles that are useful to parents looking for the latest research around online use by children.
What Parents Can Do
It is important to know what you're dealing with when it comes to the technology that your child is using. A great way to understand his or her digital world and open the lines of communication with your child is to sit down and have him or her teach you. Ask lots of questions about phone apps they may use or online gaming sites even if you think your question makes you sound ignorant. Your child will likely enjoy his or her role as the "expert" and you'll probably learn a lot! You can also use this opportunity to ask specific questions about your child's phone or computer usage, particularly who their "friends" or contacts might be (and if they can't or won't tell you, a red flag should go up).
Some basic ground rules to set with your child before he or she logs on to set up any kind of a social networking account:
1. Your Internet use will be monitored.
2. You will never give out important information.
Children should never give out important information like a real name, address, telephone number, or email address. Teach a child that talking to a screen name in a chat room is the same as talking with a stranger. Sometimes even when a child takes steps to protect personal information, he or she can leave "clues." The NetSmartz website and offers videos illustrating how easy it is to obtain this personal information.
3. You should know what will get you into trouble.
Parents and students should have a conversation about what will "get them into trouble" not just with parents but with their school and ultimately the law. For example, many children do not know that an inappropriate photo of a child under 16 can be considered child pornography. It is illegal just to be in possession (via "sexting" through a cellphone) of such a photo.
4. You will come to me when things go wrong.
If someone tries to coerce your child into doing something they know is wrong or if they receive inappropriate pictures or messages, they should feel comfortable coming to you. Fear of what a parent might say or do can prevent children from being open and honest when they are in too deep in a social networking situation. Reassure your child that he or she will not be judged and that you will be there to take care of the problem. Your child should feel comfortable coming to you.