Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Digital World is Working to Keep Kids Safe Online

Recently Childhelp blogged about "Keeping Your Kids Safe on Facebook" and reported of Facebook’s current 900 million users, an estimated 7.5 million are under the age of 13, and 5 million are under the age of 10. The blog went on to give great tips to keep your kids safe on Facebook such as:
  • Know their password,
  • Be their friend,
  • Monitor their friend list,
  • Keep up with new Facebook features
One thing they didn’t discuss however, was what to do if your child is being bullied on Facebook. Sadly, we know tweens and teens aren’t just being bullied at school these days, they’re also being bullied online. Some call it social terrorism, and with nearly half of all tweens and teens experiencing some sort of online harassment or cyberbullying, it’s time to learn more about it and how to respond to it.

Learning how to stop cyberbullying is essential, but getting teens to talk about online safety may prove challenging. Fortunately, the one place many tweens and teens seem to feel comfortable having conversations and expressing themselves is helping everyone learn to navigate the net a little safer. The Facebook Family Safety Center is now helping teens and parents everywhere by teaching digital safety and responsibility.

Teens, parents, teachers and even law enforcement officers can benefit from the Facebook Family Safety Center. While many are familiar with terms like social networking and online privacy settings, others may need a refresher in concepts like digital citizenship, social reporting and secure browsing.

The Safety Center addresses many topics including: 
  • Account safety and security
  • Facebook privacy settings
  • Online bullying and harassment reporting
Even tweens and teens, who know much more than most parents about the online world of social networking, can learn a thing or two on the page dedicated to them. And if it gets them thinking or talking about online and digital safety, it’s definitely worth a look. 

Have you ever visited the Facebook Family Safety Center? Share what you’ve learned or how it got you thinking about online safety in the comments below.  

Written by Guest Blogger Stacy Pendarvis, MSW, MA of Pendarvis Consulting & Training and former Program Manager for MBF with over 16 years in the child safety and child abuse prevention field.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to Stop Cyberbullying: Learn Steps to Prevent Online Harrassment

Cyberbullying is a term used to describe a variety of threatening and harassing online behaviors via the internet or cell phone such as lying about, stalking or generally bullying another person. It can include:
  • Sending harassing messages
  • Posting false information
  • Posting private or manipulated pictures
  • Encouraging others to bully someone
It can also involve gaining the trust of someone and then using that position to:
  • Impersonate them online
  • Post their personal information
  • Pretend to be them and bully another individual
With nearly half of all tweens and teens experiencing cyberbullying, it is essential for cyberbullying victims to learn to effectively deal with cyberbullies. With these simple but thoughtful steps, tweens, teens and parents can respond effectively to cyberbullies:
  1. If a tween or teen is bullied or harassed online, they should not respond. Instead, they should immediately find a safe adult and report the online threat or harassment.  
  2. Cyberbullying victims should also block the bully and/or unfriend them so they cannot continue the harassment.
  3. Parents should print all correspondence and go to their local law enforcement agency for help.  
  4. If the harassment or bullying continues or is coming from multiple sources, it may be necessary to close the victim’s email or Facebook accounts and open new ones, allowing access only to a small, select group of safe friends.  
  5. Because cyberbullying has had serious consequences for other children and teens, the emotional damage suffered by victims must be taken seriously. Parents must watch for signs of withdrawal, depression and isolation, and seek professional counseling and support for any child or teen that needs or desires it.  
What is more important as a society is learning to prevent cyberbullying before it ever happens. No one is to blame if they do become a victim, however there are key steps tweens, teens and parents can take to decrease the risk of being harassed or bullied online:

Limit online information and availability. For instance limit your email, social network, newsgroup and blog accounts. If you are unsure of how many accounts you have and where your information is located on the web, conduct a Google search of yourself; the results may surprise you. Eliminate all but essential information and pictures about yourself on the web. Contact your Internet Service Provider if you can’t delete unwanted information yourself.

Don’t provide ammunition. Avoid doing things like sending compromising photos of yourself or allowing access to photos or account passwords or other personal information to anyone, friend or not. Their friend status can change in a hurry and you never know what another person (or their friends) might do.

Be alert to anyone taking your photo in private situations. Photos taken in private places such as locker rooms or bathrooms can always be manipulated or posted online, and are probably not going to be used for anything good. If anyone ever takes a photo in that kind of environment, ask him or her to delete it and ask to see their photo library. If they won’t show you, ask an adult to intervene and report their behavior as harassment and a violation of your privacy.

Practice good “netiquette.” Take a moment before responding to posts either in anger or in a disrespectful way yourself, learn how to use social media sites, such as Facebook, responsibly, and always remember to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

No one can ever eliminate the possibility that they will become a victim of a cyberbully, however taking simple, practical steps such as these, and being alert online, can help decrease the risk. Let us know if you have any other cyberbullying prevention tips to share.

Written by Guest Blogger Stacy Pendarvis, MSW, MA of Pendarvis Consulting & Training and former Program Manager for MBF with over 16 years in the child safety and child abuse prevention field.