The internet might give you super fast access to the world’s information with just a few clicks but it is also home to various scammers and spammers. As if digital felons trying to steal your credit card information or tricking you into buying a useless product was not enough; the information superhighway, in recent years, has given rise to online harassers and tormentors which are popularly known as cyberbullies. Parents have never had to stay on guard like this before.
As compared to school-yard bullying where one faces fear of physical injury – cyberbullies – on the surface, might seem like a bunch of keyboard warriors having fun while hiding behind a computer screen, but recent statistics would reveal that this is not the case. Just last year a 15 year old Canadian teenager by the name of Amanda Todd committed suicide after she developed severe depression from having to deal with cyberbullies. Experts are now talking about preventive measures that adults such as parents and teachers can take to ensure that their teens stay safe.
Justin Patchin Voices Concern:
Renowned author and Professor Dr. Justin W. Patchin has been raising awareness about cyberbullying for more than a decade now. In a recently held interview with Mobistealth, the current Co-Director of Cyberbullying Research Center stressed upon the affects cyberbullying had on teens. According to Patchin, “Using technology can be just as harmful if not worse for some teens”. Parents often think that limiting the use of technology is the way to go. What they don’t realize is that this is not always a workable solution.
Teens spend most of their time at school. Armed with their portable smart devices they are now able to go online whenever they wish. Greater time spent online means greater the risk of getting exposed to the notorious and effects of such exposure are clearly visible inside the classroom. While parents can stop them from using their phones at home, they cannot take their phones away at school. Even if they do, kids these days just revert to other forms of technology. The computer at school is just as good as their own phone or laptop at home. What parents should instead do is create a culture of trust in the household. Patchin is of the view that, “kids are afraid to confide in an adult because they are afraid that it will make matters worse”.
The best thing parents and other adults can do is help teens understand what cyberbullying does. Kids need to understand the impact that their behavior has on the victim’s life. Parents can get teachers to organize special classes or group meetings after school to instruct kids on the correct use of technology, raise awareness of what cyberbullying is and how to act in a scenario where they are made victims of online harassment or hate speech.
There are tons of offline activities kids can indulge in. Taking up a hobby or a sport will not only limit their technology time but also provide the necessary mental and physical growth that is crucial in that age. Parent involvement in such sports and activities can go a long way. Kids who have involved parents have better behavior development.
Jane Andrew has been speaking against cyberbullying for quite some time now. She blogs for MobiStealth and can be found on Twitter at janeandrew01.