I’m always on the lookout for new sites and online trends that give me greater insight into how kids are using the Internet to bully one another. Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about a website called FormSpring. In a nutshell, this site allows kids to torment and insult one another completely anonymously. In certain parts of the country FormSpring is even more popular than Facebook, at least when it comes to how kids are bullying each other online. I’ve had so many teens come to me in tears, devastated by something said about them on FormSpring but made uglier by the fact that these comments can’t be traced to anyone.
YouTube is also gaining momentum, especially now that more and more teens have smartphones. It’s so simple now for almost anyone to take a video and instantly upload it. Some victims aren’t even aware they’ve been photographed or taped until they are all of a sudden getting bullied about it.
So what’s a parent to do? While there’s not much ammunition against the anonymity of the Internet, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to better protect your family against cyberbullying trends. Here are a few to get you started:
- Document, document, document! If someone threatens or bullies your child online, print the evidence out and keep a hard copy file of all abuses. Make sure you keep the file up-to-date.
- Forward any nasty text messages on your child’s cell phone directly to your email account so you have them saved in a more permanent way.
- Don’t assume your child never bullies. Check saved photos or videos on their cell phones. Is there anything that makes fun of another child or group of children? Also, monitor your child’s Facebook account. Are they unkind in what they post on others’ walls?
- Spend at least an hour a week researching new social networking sites that kids use to hurt each other. Talk to other parents, ask them what they know. Be vigilant in your quest for knowledge, and when you find something out, ask your child and their friends about it to learn as much as you can about any incidents.
- Share information about disturbing new sites with the school so that they can make sure the computers in the student tech labs and media centers don’t allow access to these and other social networking sites that encourage or allow bullying.
- Don’t bury your head in the sand – pay attention to your kids online, check their Internet history every once in a while and let them know you’re aware of their online activities.
- Lastly, make it a point to get to know the parents of your child’s friends. Talk to them about cyber-antics. Share the responsibility of online supervision – kids often know that if one parent won’t allow something, there’s another parent who will. Form a unified front with the other parents and let them know there are no weak links in the parental chain of action!
And please, if you learn of any new websites that represent fertile ground for peer abuse, let me know so I can share the info with other parents. Good luck!
For more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.