Growing up I would guess almost everyone had a run in with a bully. Maybe it was just a one time incident or possibly repeated attacks and harassment. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago the social landscape was very different. If you were bullied at school you came home at the end of the day and were safe from the reach of a bully. Today we are all so interconnected between cellular phones and social networks even at home you are bombarded with harassing comments, statuses, and text messages. As a parent what can you do to help?
If your child is getting harassed online with via chat client or social networks you have options other than disconnecting your internet access.
- Monitoring Software: You can gain insight on what they are doing and at the same time block access to social media site. Qustodio is a free tool you can download and install. It monitors and reports on internet activity and block specific site or categories of sites. You can get reports daily or weekly about their surfing habits. In addition to reporting and blocking you can set time limits by time of day or allot so many hour per day total. Best part is that its free!
- Have a tech savvy kid that might find and uninstall software? Use OpenDNS. This service has many benefits like less malware and less ads on sites but it also allows blocking of sites and categories. One of the perks it that you can set this to work on your router. You’ll experience faster (in most cases) surfing and be exposed to less online garbage
- Be the parent. Internet is a privilege at our house, not a right. Remove the computer from a child room, have it in a open area that you can see what they are doing. Make them delete social network accounts. Demand their passwords for everything. Use leverage if you have to, like “sit down and give me the passwords or hand over your car keys”. At our house if you don’t comply to rules you lose your cell-phone.
Does you child have cellular phone they are receiving harassing messages on? There are some simple solutions for that too with completely disconnecting it!
- Depending on your carrier, you might be able to restrict who they can contact and who can contact them on their phone AT&T has SmartLimits (charge applies), you pick the number for incoming and outgoing and that’s it.
- If the message are of a violent nature, contact your local authorities. According to privacyrights.org “Forty-four states now have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within stalking or harassment laws. For specifics please see www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/cip/stalk99.htm.” Filing a police is the first step, documenting the harassment is essential. If there is real chance of physical harm or repeated verbal abuse this will assist authorities pursue subpoenas from cellular carriers if things escalate.
- Inform yourself about cyberbullying and what it is. Internetsaftey101.org has a section describing what is and what the statics are surrounding it.
If none of the above seems to help then pull the plug. Suspend your internet account, suspend their cell phone. Above all get professional help, educate yourself on how to help your child. If you’re not familiar with technology and how to monitor or disconnect your service ask for help.No one should have to suffer bullying alone, not children and not the parents of bullied children.
If your child is being bullied by computer or cell phone I will offer my services for free. I can help you get monitoring setup on computers and help you contact your cellular carrier.