Toronto police said Friday they are investigating a Twitter account that purported to expose the sexual behaviour of high school students — a fate that some of its 1,500 teenage followers believe the victims “deserve.”
Here’s some tips for parents on talking to their children about cyberbullying and what to do if they suspect their child is a victim of it.
- Let them know you’ve become aware of the issue; you might mention it’s been in the news a lot, and seems to have become a pretty big thing among teens lately.
- Ask your child if they’ve ever seen any kind of cyberbullying and let them tell you about it.
- Learn what sites your child uses and what accounts they have. Talk with them about what they do online, and who they do it with.
- Know the technology and keep up with it. Learn about the devices your child is using and how they’re using them: instant message, text, visit social networking sites, download content. Learn what apps they may have on their mobile devices.
- Insist your child use privacy settings.
- Educate your child about passwords and how important they are. Encourage them to create different passwords for different sites and to never share their passwords with friends. Learn more about passwords.
- Make sure your child understands that once they post something online, it doesn’t go away. And they can lose control over it. It can be shared and even altered by others. Even deleting something doesn’t necessarily remove it from the Internet.
- Help your child to think before posting. Kids can be very impulsive about snapping photos and uploading them to share with friends, or posting personal information. Rule of thumb: only post what they’d be comfortable with anyone seeing.
- Talk to your child about what a real friend is. It’s not uncommon for kids to see the number of friends they have in their social networks as a symbol of their importance or popularity. But they need to understand that in the online space, you can never be 100 per cent sure of who you’re talking to. Encourage them not to accept friends they’ve never met in person.
- Do not respond to the cyberbullying. Let your child know that kids that bully crave attention, and replying to them gives them more power. If your child receives a bullying message, teach them not to engage and not to openly show their emotions with those doing the bullying in person if they’re people they see in real life.
- Block the person doing the bullying. This is one of the most effective ways your child can stop cyberbullying early. If the person doing the bullying’s messages can’t get to your child, they realize their efforts are futile. Most social networking sites, and email, provide ways to block users from your account.
- Tell someone. Encourage them to come to you, or even another trusted adult, should they ever become a target of cyberbullying.
- Let your child know that if they ever do something online they regret, such as posting something they think they shouldn’t have, you won’t overreact. Kids often don’t tell parents about these kinds of things for fear of getting in trouble, or having their mobile device or computer taken away.