Cyberbullying and bullying are big topics for studies these days, and for good reason. Of the many people surveyed about attitudes, awareness and fears of cyberbullying, staggering numbers of parents worry about it to at least some extent. One of the most recent studies, done by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), found that about 85% of parents with teens aged 13 to 17 are aware of their kids’ social media accounts. Of those parents over half are concerned about the possibility that their child might be made a victim of bullying online, and one in six parents reported knowing about at least one incident where their child was harassed or bullied on a social networking site. Finally, in over 50% of these instances, this was not the only incident where the child had been made a victim.
What makes these results so interesting is that they really make one wonder how many bullying incidents have occurred online that parents don’t know about. Another survey result revealed that 86% of parents polled have taken steps to monitor their kids’ online activities by either friending them on a specific social network. Unfortunately, in many cases this is not enough. Kids can adjust privacy settings for different online friends and contacts – whether they are trying to hide the harassment they face daily, or are actually posting reputation damaging content themselves.
One more notable result of the AOA survey was that one in seven parents don’t allow their kids to engage in social networking sites, mostly because of the lack of privacy or the fact that their kids are too young. Social networking is not something that’s going away so rather than completely prohibiting any kind of social activity online, another solution for parents is to slowly ease their kids into the online world so that by the time they are there with less supervision, they’ve had time to become smart, savvy and safe digital citizens. Having specific rules and guidelines in place, along with some kind of monitoring system or parental controls, can help kids become less prone to online dangers and will give parents more peace of mind when it comes to these dangers, including their worries about cyberbullying.
What is your biggest concern for your children when they spend time online, specifically on social networking sites?