It’s true. Bullying is not just for schoolyards anymore, and cyberbullies can have a heyday with your child’s online reputation, personal information and safety. Cyberbullies hack into accounts, compromise privacy and hijack a person’s identity, creating a stream of wicked words, photos and other content that can remain forever linked to the victim. And that content can travel fast. A Pew study noted the typical teen has 300 Facebook friends, which means a foul post could potentially reach 90,000 sets of eyes in milliseconds if every friend were to repost it. The following strategies can help protect your family’s account, preserve online reputations and fight back if the worst case scenario does indeed occur.
Protection & Prevention
Start with a passwords overhaul. Help your child create a different password for each website or platform. Strong passwords include a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and numbers. Keep track of your child’s lineup of passwords with a password management tool, such as LastPass, that stores passwords for user access. LastPass works on most operating systems through a Web browser. It’s an ideal choice for mobile devices and desktop computers.
Logging off is another simple, vital protection maneuver. Encourage your children to make it a habit to always log out of Facebook, Twitter and mobile devices when they’re not using them. Mobile devices typically have a lock-out option that automatically locks out users after a period of inactivity; set up your child’s device to require a password to log back in. Review security settings together as a family to ensure all devices are set for maximum security.
If a cyberbully has already invaded your child’s social networking or email accounts and hijacked his or her identity, report the breach to the site’s administrators. Next, log into the hacked account and change the password. If you and you child can regain access, check the account’s settings and send out a message that warms friends and family about how the account’s been hacked. If you can’t gain access, you may have to shut down the account through the site’s admin.
Cleaning up the aftermath of cyberbullying can’t wait or be taken lightly. Online reputation management services can come to the rescue. The Web-based service Reputation.com lets you keep an eye on your child’s online persona and privacy. It assists with search result control — sinking bad-mouthing to the bottom and positive information to the top of online results pages. If bullying has been intensely nasty or seriously threatening, don’t hesitate to report the incident to the police or your child’s school to ensure the incident goes on record.
The cyberbullying epidemic of today has caused some extreme reactions, like the suicide of 12-year-old Gabrielle Molina. Three mothers, sick of these pointless tragedies, have started Advocates Against Cyberbullying (AAC) to help school districts and parents prevent cyberbullying. Part of fighting the battle against bullying is awareness of parents, school faculty and children. Know the signs and teach your teen the dangers and how to deal with online harassment.
Nobullying.com provides these sobering cyberbullying statistics:
- According to i-Safe Foundation, one in three teens have experienced cyber bullying threats online and over 25 percent of teens have suffered repeated cyber bullying.
- Half of teens who use the Internet, social media or cell phones have experienced cyber bullying.
- According to the Pew Internet Research Center, 55 percent of teenagers witness bullying on social media, while 95 percent of teenagers who have witnessed this bullying have seen other ignoring this behavior.
To protect you child from cyberbullying requires walking a fine line; you don’t want to be the overprotective parent, yet knowing the risks of cyberbullying, you can’t just sit idly by either.
Luckily you can be proactive behind the scenes to help keep your child safe.
My Mobile Watchdog leads the way in parental controls applications. With it you can monitor text messages and pictures (to prevent or stop sexting, yet another problem), put time limits on when and how the phone and its applications can be used, block web sites, applications (including the phone’s built in camera), and specific telephone numbers, and track your child’s location with GPS services. You will receive a daily report of your child’s activity and instant text messages of violations.
You can also download free apps from companies such as Life360, Securafone, and SMS Tracker to track your child’s whereabouts.
Technology on New Cell Phones Helps Parents
The latest technology on new cell phones also helps you keep your child safe. Most cell phones have GPS and all of the major wireless service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint offer “Family Locator” packages giving you the ability to track any cell phone on the wireless plan. Some cell phone providers offer parental controls as well. AT&T, for example, offers Smart Controls to limit cell phone use to certain times of the day, and Smart Limits to block up to thirty telephone numbers.
Even with all of the technological help available, nothing beats talking to your child. Let your child know that having a cell phone is partly about safety; your child being able to contact you quickly in an emergency, and you being able to find your child at all times. Make it clear that your interest is in safety rather than snooping. Set limits or install parental controls apps at the beginning and make them a part of owning the phone. It’s easier to start with these in place than to add them later.