Face-to-face bullying can be scary for families, but now it's accompanied by something else: cyberbullying. Studies and rates vary, but about 15% of high school students and 24% of middle school students are cyberbullied. Consider these ways to help you and your kids talk about safety in the digital world:
- Create kid-friendly and age-appropriate rules. What works for your high schooler may not work for your middle schooler. All your discussions should include settings, time limits, privacy, sharing, blocking and online comments, as well as where it’s appropriate to use devices (in shared family spaces) and where it’s not (in their bedrooms).
- Make sure kids understand those rules. There’s often deviation between what kids think the rules are and what caregivers say the rules are. Be clear — and enforce consequences, too.
- Keep talking. Setting limits and outlining online appropriateness isn’t something that’s a one-and-done conversation. Keep talking to your kids about issues friends are having, things you read about in the news, or what’s new and challenging for them in online discussions.
- Talk about the longevity of a digital life. A child might delete a rude comment, but that doesn’t mean it goes away. Screen captures and shares can preserve regrettable statements and images forever.
- Find a person for your kids to turn to. A turn in behavior — surliness, secretiveness — may be a good indication that something’s happening, and it might be at that moment that your kids shut you out. Discussions of online safety should include a person who kids can turn to to talk about problems. Getting help is what’s most important.
- Be a good role model. It’s one thing to set rules, and it’s another thing to follow them. Practice what you preach to your kids, following your own rules and cultivating a polite, respectful online presence.
- Let go what you can’t control. It’s impossible to know everything your children might see and everything they might do online. And experts say that you shouldn’t; instead focus on giving kids the confidence to deal with any bumps in an ongoing online life.
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