Teach Kids to Use Internet Tools Wisely to Avoid Cyberbullying

August 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Cyber Bullies

Parents: How are you schooling your kids on use of mobile devices and Internet instruction? If you’re not, then maybe it’s time to start.

The rapid rise in image-sharing and video-sharing mobile apps like Instagram and Vine among pre-teens and teens is causing parents more concern on how our kids are interacting over the Internet. The ease of snapping pics, taking incriminating videos and spreading them to friend and enemies can have far-reaching consequences. When those actions cause unease and mistrust among kids, that can often lead to cyberbullying.

Photo of a teen on the phone by GoodNCrazy via Flickr

Cyberbullying Insights

Cyberbullying is the umbrella term given to activities uses by pre-teens and teens to threaten, harass or humiliate others by using smartphones connected to the Internet, or other digital technologies involving the Internet. Legally, when minors are involved, it’s generally called cyberbullying. But at a certain age threshold, this type of activity becomes criminal and is labeled cyber-harassment.

For instance, the mobile photo sharing site Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) is becoming more of the starting social media online place to be for pre-teens and teens. It used to be Facebook, but the teens and pre-teens caught on that most of their parents were already on there, so it became less of a cool place to see friends funny stuff.

Like Facebook, Instagram is not supposed to allow anyone under 13 years old using its service. However, most parents don’t know that, and it’s said that Instagram isn’t enforcing it so well. As a result, photos and texts that stretch the boundaries of civility are becoming the norm.

How does it Happen?

The rise of mobile phone use in the U.S. is seen as one of the key proponents of the rise in cyberbullying. Kids can easily distribute pictures that are kept on cloud storage services and send to a wide amount of people, with only minimal guidance and fear of consequence. What starts as a joke photo about someone passed around to friends, can suddenly turn up on Tumblr sites and other social networks with awful circumstances. In a Pew Internet study of teens on the Internet in 2011, findings included:

  • 18 percent of surveyed 12-17 year old teens say that they have been mistreated on a social network
  • 9 percent of the teens had been bullied by text messages
  • 8 percent of those polled had been bullied online

Kids usually can tell when they are being cyberbullied and it’s a tough situation for some of these kids to either face up the the cyberbullies or seek out help from school officials or parents to help them deal with the situation. But lewd pictures, rude language and other effects of today’s digital communications can have a pulverizing effect on young victims.

What can Parents Do?

More parents are often handing down their older mobile phones to their kids with little instruction. Kids being kids, they talk to their friends (or mimic their parents) and learn what’s fun to do on the Internet. A pre-teen mobile phone user is often just playing games at first, but soon experimenting with tools and apps on the Internet.

The first thing a parent should do is teach online insights to their kids. Then as the child becomes alert to its uses, the parent should monitor the behavior. And then, if any cyberbullying comes into play, parents should be supportive, rather than overreactive. Be helpful to your child who may be experiencing emotional pain as a result of cyberbullies. Speak to school officials as needed and offer guidance and assistance.