Social media platforms have become a daily staple in our society. They are all around us and are ubiquitous in our children’s lives.
As adults, we must ensure that our kids use them responsibly and don’t engage in or perpetrate cyberbullying activities.
Cyberbullying is when someone uses technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or victimize another person. It can happen on social media, in chat rooms, or via emails.
Cyberbullying can be anonymous, meaning the bully’s identity is not known to the victim, or it can come from someone the victim knows.
According to a study by Cyberbullying.org, around 37% of children, aged 12 to 17, in the United States have been bullied online, making it a pressing problem for young people today.
With that in mind, here we cover some best practices you can teach your child to help them so they continue staying safe from cyberbullying and learn more about being responsible on social media.
Internet Etiquette: 8 Ways to Teach Children to be More Responsible
The Role of Parents
As you teach your child to use social media responsibly, it’s important to practice what you preach and be a role model of acceptable behavior.
The onus for a child’s online actions ultimately rests with the parents. While demonstrating ideal behavior is a good start, you and your children are unlikely to be active in the same social networks, so this step has its limits.
Talking about social media etiquette is your best bet because, if parents and other adults teach kids about cyberbullying early, they can help prevent it from happening and avoid some of its dreadful consequences.
Explain What is Acceptable Behavior Online
This can include things like how to behave with other people online (the same as in real life, no nasty, hateful, or discriminatory speech or actions).
Teaching acceptable behavior includes showing them appropriate and inappropriate language to use on social media platforms, and also how to not make fun of other people’s posts or pictures.
Explain the consequences of unacceptable behavior, including how it can make the recipient feel. Use analogies to illustrate your points and choose appropriate language while explaining the potential effects.
Let Your Child Know How They Can Stop Cyberbullying
Tell kids to be an upstander, not a bystander. Let them know that if they see cyberbullying, they have options and that it’s okay to report things.
Kids can tell a parent, teacher, or trusted adult if someone is being cyberbullied. They can also block and report the person who is bullying others. Also, if they’re being bullied, they can delete the specific post and report it.
Talk About How to Report Things
Teach kids to report things directly to the social media platform.
These platforms should check any report and take down anything that violates their policies around bullying and harassment, which may include banning the user in question.
For serious incidents, like violent threats, the police can be involved. As the FBI notes, “hoax threats” are a crime.
Let Kids Know Not to Engage
Cyberbullies, like all bullies, are looking for a rise. Giving them any form of attention only adds fuel to the fire, even if that attention is well-intentioned. Instead, let children know that they should avoid engaging with bullies online.
Teach Your Kids About the Effects of Cyberbullying
Your children need to understand the adverse effects of cyberbullying. It’s not just harmful to the person being bullied but also to the bully. There are a few ways to teach your child about this topic.
You can explain that bullying is often very hurtful to victims and can make them feel upset. You can also explain that bullying can make others feel like they have no control over what is happening.
Additionally, explain that kids who are bullied don’t know how long the bullying will last or whether it will ever stop, which can be stressful.
Discuss the Importance of not Sharing Other People’s Personal Information and Secrets
It’s also important to talk about the dangers of sharing personal information, whether it’s their own or that of others. Personal information is anything that can identify someone, such as their name or address.
A solid rule of thumb for children is this: Don’t share anything—about you or your friends and family—with anyone you do not know in person.
There are so many scams and people fishing for information on the internet. It would be smart to educate your children on the many different types of scammers lurking on social media.
It’s also important to have kids know the “see something, say something” rule. If they see personal information being leaked on the internet, it’s best to have them report it as soon as they see it.
They can also encourage their friends or classmates to never share personal information or secrets. Spreading rumors can often lead to cyberbullying, so avoiding that together is a good idea.
Many social media platforms will have groups or pages dedicated to “spilling secrets”- often for certain schools or areas. It’s important to make sure kids are aware of these pages and to report them if they see them.
Trying to Ban Social Media May Be Counterproductive
As parents, our instinct is to protect our children no matter what. Given the prevalence of cyberbullying, it’s tempting to ban social media entirely.
But this may be counterproductive, leading to a situation where kids access social media outside their knowledge. Banning social media could also cut kids off from their peer groups, which are essential to adolescent development.
Instead, we need to ensure kids are using social media healthily. A recent study showed that more than 40% of kids under 13 have an Instagram account, with TikTok and Snapchat ranking highly.
What’s more, there’s evidence that some younger kids are accessing social media platforms despite how most platforms require kids to be at least 15 years of age.
One survey found that 37.8% and 24.3% of 10-year-olds had Facebook and Instagram, respectively. Given these figures, it’s clear that social media will remain a strong fixture in our children’s lives.
It’s crucial at this point in history—when so many people are active on these sites—that we teach our kids what they should do when they see something or someone being hurtful, threatening, or dangerous online.
They should report it immediately or block the user if necessary, and tell their parents or other trusted adults about the situation.
Knocking Cyberbullying in the Head Starts at Home
We hope this article has helped shed some light on the importance of teaching our children proper social media etiquette.
Cyberbullying is a huge problem in our society that can lead to many adverse effects. It is an added stressor on our children’s already busy lives! It can lead to anxiety, depression, and acting out.
None of this is ideal for a young and impressionable child. With cyberbullying being so prevalent, it can seem impossible to eradicate.
But it’s not. There is a bright future ahead of us, one with more acceptance and less bullying. It starts at home.
We have a responsibility to teach our kids how to protect themselves and their friends online, so they can all enjoy the benefits of technology without being exposed to cyberbullying or other inappropriate behavior.
Learning to be good citizens, both online and offline, is a key life skill that all parents should impart. Combatting cyberbullying starts at home, and beating cyberbullying certainly helps prevent childhood trauma.