Editor’s note: Tracy is McAfee’s Cyber Security Mom, and she has teamed up with our very own Jay Opperman to spread the word about the Cyber Summer Safety Challenge. This is Tracy’s second guest blog post here at Comcast Voices, check out her first post for some tips about teens and social networks.
Last year my son was using the computer during his "allotted time" when I noticed something strange…he got up and walked away from the computer! I joke, but this really was strange behavior for him (because he is usually glued to it). So I asked him if he was okay. He said he was fine, but I noticed he was really agitated. He finally admitted that both he and his girlfriend were being harassed online by someone at school.
During the course of the nationwide television and radio interviews, with Jay Opperman, to kick off the Cyber Summer Safety Challenge, two questions came up repeatedly: What is Cyberbullying and how do we talk to our kids about it and what software is available to help protect our kids?
According to the experts that I’ve spoken with, cyberbullying is using a computer or mobile device to send hurtful or cruel messages to others. It is basically the online version of the schoolyard behavior we remember from when we were kids. Unfortunately, kids think this type of online behavior is "normal." Without a conversation with mom or dad about how it is not normal they may participate in or worse yet, suffer in silence.
This has become such a big issue that the Ad Council has taken the subject on as a campaign. Show your kids the Ad Council commercial on cyberbullying if they haven’t seen it as an easy way to introduce the subject. Here is some advice that I have used with my children:
- This kind of online behavior is unacceptable and if anyone is sending or posting hurtful messages or pictures about them then they are to let me know.
- Explain that there are ways to block other people (whether friends or strangers) from sending instant messages and (with some cellphone providers) text messages.
- Kids should Stop whatever they are doing, Block the user from sending instant messages, and go Tell an adult.
Sometimes, it is important to simply pay attention to your kids – as in the case with my son. Although he knew what to do, he felt like he provoked the teen at sometime and therefore he somehow needed to "end" the fight. My husband and I had to remind him that he didn’t owe this boy anything and that he didn’t deserve to be mistreated.
Hopefully you will find these tips about cyberbullying useful. I would love to hear your questions and comments on the subject. Have you found a good way to discuss cyberbullying with your child? Let me know!