Some types of cyber bullying cannot be prevented. If a teen has it in for your child and is determined to use the Internet to voice their hatred, there is little that can be done to prevent such harassment ahead of time. In some cases, however, teens may open themselves up to cyberbullying, either by falling into a trap that a bully has meticulously set, or by putting themselves in situations that open the door for an attack.
Safety rules for kids to prevent cyberbullying
To lower the chances of your teen becoming a target of online harassment, share this cyber bullying safety advice with your teen:
Cyberbullying prevention rule #1: Don’t post when angry
Reinforce to teens how important it is never to send an email or post a message when they’re angry. Cyberbullying often starts when one youth posts a message in anger, and the recipient decides to escalate the situation. In the same way a forest fire can ignite from a single spark, bullying can start from a simple dispute and grow into an all-consuming attack. Don’t go around throwing sparks.
Cyberbullying prevention rule #2: Don’t be naive about the Internet
Understand that a common cyber bullying technique is to set someone up by pretending to be someone else. So teach teens to be very suspicious of anyone they do not know in real life, and never give out passwords, pin numbers, personal information or personal photos to someone you meet over the Internet. Make sure you verify that the person you’re corresponding to is indeed that person anytime you start correspondence with a new account.
Cyberbullies have been known to pretend to be someone in the real world to gain dirt on the person being bullied. This goes for chat rooms especially, where people can often change their tags as easily as typing in a different name. (For example, if your best friend chats under the tag “herogirl,” often times any imposter can enter the room under that name and pretend to be your friend, hoping to start up an intimate conversation so that they can obtain personal details to use against you.) Ask questions to verify that the person you’re corresponding to is indeed who you think it is, and verify all friend requests by phone so you know they are who they say they are.
Internet bullying prevention rule #3: Don’t be loose with personal info
Don’t be loose with your cellphone number, instant messaging name or email address. The more people you give this information to, the greater the chance it could end up in the wrong hands. The more ways a bully has to get to you, the greater their harassment will be.
Internet bullying prevention rule #4: Keep private
Use the privacy settings on Facebook so that you know exactly who is going to see that photo or comment you post, and try to limit viewership to your close friends. There are many ways a bully might try to spin your words against you or use a photo, even a seemingly innocent one, for evil purposes. (Posting it on.a fake web page about you, for example.) While you shouldn’t live your life in fear or let this keep you from sharing with friends, (after all, someone who wants a photo badly enough can get it from a yearbook or another source), you don’t want to make it easy for a bully, either. The more work they have to put into tormenting you, the less likely they are to do so. Many cyber bullying cases really are crimes of opportunity. Limit that opportunity.
Online bullying prevention rule #5: Keep passwords to yourself
Don’t give out your personal passwords, even to friends. Some of the most severe cases of cyberbullying emerge out of former friendships that fell into disrepair. Someone who is your friend now may not be 6 months from now. Passwords are meant to be private, and should never be shared with anyone.
Online bullying prevention rule #6: Teach kids how to contact the cyber cops
All teens should know how to contact the chat administrator or site webmaster to report bullying, so that it can be nipped in the bud before it escalates. Many youth aren’t aware that most websites have policies against cyberbullying. No teen wants to be banned from Facebook, and so even the threat of sending an email to site administrators can make a potential bully reconsider.
Cyberbullying prevention rule #7: Don’t over-share!
Most of all recognize that online conversations are never private. Others can copy, print, forward or share anything you say and any pictures you post. So if you wouldn’t feel comfortable revealing it to the world, then the web is probably not the best place to express it.