Cyberbullying gained national attention this year as multiple incidents of teen’s committing suicide after being the victim of cyberbullying grabbed headlines. Parents have a responsibility help stop cyberbullying, whether initiated by or targeting their children. Computer monitoring software
that includes a keylogger
can be an important part of parents’ strategies to combat cyberbullying, when combined with setting clear expectations and rules regarding internet use and initiating open communication about appropriate internet behavior. Tools that directly interact with digital communication devices offer parents an easy way for to continue meeting their responsibilities without constantly having to be present to watch over their teens.
With the almost constant access that we have to the internet and social media today, whether through personal mobile devices, laptops, school computers, or personal gaming systems, the opportunities for exposure to online harassment have never been greater. Experience has shown that cyberbullying represents a real threat to mental health and physical safety. A 2007 survey conducted by cyberbullying.us
with a random sample of 200 11 to 16 year olds in the southern United States found that 19.0 percent of girls and 16.1 percent of boys admit to having cyberbullied others. Based on trends in internet access, especially to social networks via cell phones and personal mobile devices, coupled with the common belief that cyberbullying is easy to hide from parents and teachers, this figure has increased in the three years since the survey.
As The New York Times points out
, “Cyberbullies themselves resist easy categorization: the anonymity of the Internet gives cover…” But parents, floundering to protect their children, keep an eye on their online activities, and understand new technology should not feel helpless about this problem. The first step that many parents struggle with but must take is to make an effort to become cell-phone and social media literate. It is important to understand the methods that teens use to communicate, which can be abused as harassment tools. Then, parents need to implement security software on home computers, including keyloggers, and find a way to keep tabs on cell phone and mobile device activity - as that same NYT article says, to turn “cell phones into parenting tools.”
But beyond taking action, it is also important for parents to understand cyberbullying. Cyberbullying includes sending mean messages or threats via any communication portal, spreading rumors, sexts, or sexually suggestive pictures, posting hurtful or threatening messages about others, and pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person. Students who admit to having cyberbullied someone point to unsurprising reasons: to show off to friends, a desire to be mean to or embarrass someone, for fun or out of boredom, as retribution, or because “they deserved it.”
What parents need to understand is that the absolute anonymity possible on the internet can lead even the teens that seem like the least likely culprits to commit acts of cyberbullying. This is why communication, clear rules, and effective monitoring through tools such as keyloggers and parental control software can be so effective at helping parents to put a stop to cyberbullying – they help parents identify behaviors indicative of harassment and then make it more possible for parents to address the problem directly with their children.
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