Strategies to Protect Your Children

Even with cooperative school officials, parents remain on the front line protecting their children. Here are some strategies parents can implement:

  • Learn about the new technologies. If you are unfamiliar with the Internet, now is the time to start surfing the Web. Learn the many ways that children can bully electronically, through IMs, e-mails, blogs (Web logs that are online diaries), and videos that are downloaded from camcorders or picture phones.
  • Talk about values. The technology may have changed, but kindness and decency should still be top priorities for everyone.
  • Guard passwords. A bully can use another child’s screen name to send out offensive e-mails. Tell your child not to share passwords with friends and to change passwords frequently.
  • Talk to your child if you believe he is the victim of a bully. Oftentimes a child being tormented by a cyberbully will be too embarrassed to tell a parent or teacher. Make sure your child knows he’s not to blame for being targeted and that he should report any incident to you or an adult at school.
  • Keep copies. Having documentation of the cyberbullying will strengthen your case if you need to report it to school or other authorities. Otero advises not to delete the original e-mail, even after you have printed it out. “There may be something in the original [e-mail] header that would lead us to the source,” he says.
  • Lobby your school. Even if cyberbullying happens outside of school, the repercussions spill over into the classroom. Computer etiquette should be on your school’s agenda.
  • Stress the Internet’s impact. An e-mail sent to one child can be forwarded to hundreds. Old e-mails and IMs may resurface and get even a well-meaning child in trouble. Encourage your child to think before clicking.

Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese are coauthors of several books for parents of young adolescents, including The Roller-Coaster Years: Raising Your Child Through the Maddening Yet Magical Middle School Years; Cliques: 8 Steps to Help Your Child Survive the Social Jungle; and What Are You Doing In There? Balancing Your Need to Know with Your Adolescent’s Need to Grow. They lecture to parent, teacher, and student groups across the United States.

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