Are You Cyberbully Savvy?

10 Tips for Parents

1. Check with the School. Make sure your school has an Internet safety program in place. This should not cover solely the threat of sexual predators, but also how to prevent and respond to online harassment.

2. Encourage Two-Way Conversations. Maintain an open line of communication with your children as soon as they start to use a computer and cell phone, so that they’re willing to talk with you when problems arise. Bullying victims and bystanders need to know that adults who they tell will intervene rationally and not make a situation worse.

3. Teach Accountability. Discuss social networking. Make it clear to your children that anything posted online is public and they are responsible for what they write. At least 25 percent of colleges regularly check online as part of the admissions process.

4. Cite the Law. Stress to your child that cyberbullying may be a criminal offense. Electronically-communicated threats are a crime in the same way that a face-to-face or written threat can generate a criminal charge.

5. Set Rules. Review cell phone rules with your child. Also cover how to react to abusive or scary messages – save and report them, but do not respond. Consider in advance what the consequences will be if rules are broken.

6. Respect Privacy. Teach your child to never give out passwords or screen names, even to friends.

7. Make a Plan. Talk with your child about what he should do if he is the victim of cyberbullying. Ask him to tell you immediately and know what steps to take (See Tip No. 8).

8. Report Incidents. If your child is the victim of cyberbullying by school peers, report the bullying to your child’s school and ask the school to address the behavior. If you believe that your child’s safety is in danger, immediately contact your local police department.

9. Watch for Warning Signs. If your child becomes withdrawn, doesn’t want to go to school or his or her Internet use becomes obsessive, it could be a sign that he or she is either a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying.

10. Discuss your Values. Explain that electronic communications count, and it’s not acceptable to claim later that, “I was only joking.” If you can’t say it out loud to someone’s face, then you can’t e-mail it. Make sure that your child understands that you expect him or her to treat others with kindness at all times – both online and off.

Sources: Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Cyberbulling Research Center and the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.