June is Internet Safety Month and I attended several functions about cyberbullying and it got me thinking about whether my kids know what cyberbullying is and what to do if it happens to them. I decided to interview all four of my kids separately.

What is a Cyberbully?

  • 14 yr  – People who bully you on the internet or online, calling you names.
  • 11 yr – bullying is done online, spreading lies.
  • 7 yr – I don’t know what cyber means, but bully means picking on someone. Didn’t know
  • 6 yr – I don’t know, but I know a bully is someone who is mean to someone. Didn’t know

It seems that my kids know what a bully is and my older children are aware that cyberbullying does take place. They both went through the D.A.R.E. program at school and discussed cyberbullying through that program. The official definition of cyberbullying from the Wired Kids website is:

“when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.”

Examples of Cyberbullying

What I found more interesting though was that when I asked them to give me examples, they could only name one example of cyberbullying. During the Wired Safety Summit, I remembered that many kids do not realize they are being bullied and they don’t know that it is ok to be upset over it. This is something I need to work on with my kids. Here are several examples of cyberbullying:

  • Asking kids for pictures
  • Sexting
  • Asking for personal information
  • Game bullying (Xbox, PS3, etc)
  • Poll bullying (creating a poll about someone)
  • Creating a username that is mean about someone (example – i_hate_Jen)
  • Creating a fan page to make fun of someone
  • Getting someone’s password and changing their status or doing bad things to other people using their account
  • Sending hateful instant messages

Have you ever been bullied online?

  • 14 yr – No, well maybe, I don’t know.. When playing games online people get mad and swear at me sometimes, but that is more just being frustrated at the game than bullying me, so I guess the answer is No.
  • 11 yr – No
  • 7 yr – No, I don’t know how to do that online because I can’t talk to people online.
  • 6 yr – No

This brought up an interesting conversation with my 14-year-old about the differences between being bullied and just letting out steam while playing a game. We agreed that if it made him uncomfortable, then he would talk to me and we would discuss it.

What would you do if you were bullied online?

  • 14 yr – ignore it, but if it got really bad I would talk to Mom or Dad
  • 11 yr – Tell a parent or an adult
  • 7 yr – Say “Stop It!” since it isn’t nice and then tell Mom.
  • 6 yr – Get off the computer.

I was happy they all thought that going to an adult was the plan of action. I reassured them that if they came to us, we would listen and not judge.

At the Wired Kids Summit, I learned that only 5% of the kids will tell their parents if they are being bullied and parents will often underestimate how much the bullying hurts. We may brush it off and tell them to just ignore it instead of really listening. As parents, we need to be sure that we let our kids be heard.

How can adults/parents stop cyberbullying?

  • 14 yr – Parental blocks and pay attention to what the kids are doing online. He thinks it’s ok for parents to check kid’s computers if the parents suspect that the kids are bullying or being bullied.
  • 11 yr – She doesn’t know.
  • 7 yr – Call Mom or Dad of the bully to tell them.
  • 6 yr – Send them to the Principal.

None of these answers surprised me knowing my kids and their ages. I took this opportunity to talk to my 11 yr old about the different things I am doing in our family to stay on top of the cyberbullying. She doesn’t like many of the rules we have about the computer, but she did say that she understood why we have them.

Parents Can Help Stop Cyberbullying

  • Listen to your kids.
  • Talk to your kids.
  • A contract stating that you will not overreact and you will listen to them and not judge
  • Check the search engines online to see what is being said (if anything) about your kids.
  • Pick your battles and don’t freak out when they do come talk to you

Any tips for kids your age?

  • 14 yr – Just listen to your parents, Be Smart, Don’t do stupid stuff online, Don’t give out your personal information
  • 11 yr – Walk away and make good choices (she just graduated from the D.A.R.E. program this month and this is exactly what they tell the kids to do in any situation that makes them uncomfortable)
  • 7 yr – Say “could you please stop it?”  and tell your teacher to get them to stop hurting your feelings.
  • 6 yr – She doesn’t know.

If you found out your best friend was bullying someone online, what would you do?

  • 14 yr – Talk to him about it.
  • 11 yr – Stop talking to her.
  • 7 yr – Tell his Mom.
  • 6 yr – Tell her to stop it.

Talking with each of my kids separately about cyberbullying opened up the conversation. Since then we have had many conversations about what it is and what to do. My next step is to be sure they understand all the different types of cyberbullying. I also want to be sure they are not going to bullying anyone because peer pressure can sometimes get the best of kids.

I encourage everyone with kids, to sit down with each of them alone and ask them a few questions. Find out what they know and don’t know and be sure to keep the conversation open.

What have you done in your home to prepare your children?

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