I’m a busy working mom and, like many of my peers, I allow my children a limited amount of screen time. It holds their attention, they learn things, and their dad and I actively monitor what they’re watching. However, online media, like matches, swimming pools or over-the-counter cold medicine, is an element that has both virtues and the potential to do our children harm.
Here are four things we can do to protect children from cyberbullying.
What We Can Do
- Teach the children. Child and adolescent involvement in online media will continue and grow in coming years. Schools and families should address these issues as soon as children begin to engage in screen time by asking questions about what they’re watching and how they’re engaging with online content. We can do this by pointing out ways that media can influence people’s behavior, correcting misperceptions of norms and guiding children and teens in appropriate online behaviors.
- Integrate these topics into existing teaching. Ask questions with examples about texting or social media. Address empathy (“How would it feel to get a text like that? Why would someone send such a text?”). In a unit on bullying or dating violence, be sure to offer electronic examples. Ask students to come up with their own scenarios and include the social media sites they and their friends use.
- Offer resources for support and make sure all students, parents and educators know about them. Encourage people to act quickly when they become aware of troublesome behaviors.
- Support ongoing research and develop stronger programs. I’d like to see more research-informed guidance for parents, schools and communities. We need effective policies, practices and curricula to prevent cyberbullying and online sex trafficking. I’d also like to see more research looking at parent and family roles in creating healthy online habits for children, and clearer guidance for parents.
I know my daughters will continue to be actively engaged in online media. I believe the power of good in this technology will ultimately be a positive force in their lives. And I also believe that by staying engaged and informed about their online experiences, I’ll be able to support them in that process in the best way possible.