A new report by teen research firm TRU and software maker McAfee is out this week titled the Digital Deception Study. The report focuses on interviews with over 2,700 subjects, all of whom were either youths aged 10 – 23 who spend at least an hour per day online, or parents of similarly aged kids.
The results focus on the gap between what youths are doing online and what their parents believe to be the case. The data in the study allows one to draw a lot of interesting conclusions, but one that caught my eye is that parents are woefully behind in understanding what is going on with respect to cyber bullying.
A few highlights:
- 27% of youths have seen cruel behavior online
- 13% have been a victim of online cruelty or cyber bullying
- Fewer than 10% of parents are aware that any of this is happening
- 74% of parents admit that they don’t have the time or energy to pay attention to what their kids are doing online
One number – the 13% who admitted to being victims of cruel behavior online – is probably understated by a large margin. The thing about bullying victims is that they often don’t like to admit weakness.
Bullying a serious issue in schools, and administrators and teachers face a huge challenge dealing with it. Typically, the school gets involved after the bullying has reached a serious level, but damage can be done before that happens. Prevention or early detection requires students speaking up and parents getting involved, which can’t happen if the victims are staying silent.
If you are a parent of a child or teen with internet access (gaming consoles count), here is a five step process that should help your chances of staying on top of what is happening:
- Ask your kids which social networks, online forums, messaging apps or gaming platforms they are using.
- If your child is under 13, in most cases she shouldn’t be on social media – the age limit for most social networks in the U.S. is 13, per the Child Online Privacy Protection and Act.
- Ask her whether she is being bullied or treated badly on social media. Go ahead, ask!
- If the answer is yes, look for yourself. You need to understand how serious it is, whether the bullying is an isolated incident or a series of events, and how many bullies are involved.
- Do something about it. Depending on the severity, it may be necessary to block users or shut down social media accounts entirely. Especially in cases where multiple people are cyber bullying your child, social media may not be the place for her, or perhaps her behavior is doing something to attract haters. If the bullying medium is text messages or messaging apps, resolution might require getting a new phone number. In the most extreme cases, the incidents can be reported to the school or police.
A hands on parental strategy is the most effective way to catch cyber bullying early, or put an end to it before it gets out of hand,
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.