A new study highlighted by UK news site Mirror shows yet again that parents are probably falling short when it comes to helping their kids stay safe online. It’s time for this to change.
In the survey cited, findings indicate that 11% of kids aged 8 – 16 have been cyberbullied, many of them on social media. We are going to assume that the incidence of cyberbullying at the lower end of that age range it quite low, the rate of self-reported cyberbullying for the teens is likely higher. In our experience, there are also cyberbullying victims who aren’t telling anyone, let alone replying in the affirmative to a survey.
It would appear that this is a pretty standard parenting situation, but perhaps it isn’t. According to the same survey, 49% of respondents had seen others be victimized by cyberbullying, and a third did not report it to anyone.
Even if you haven’t heard your teen talking about cyberbullying, either as a victim or a witness, have you talked to them about how to stay safe online and what to do if they are a witness or victim? According to the survey, the chances are almost 50/50 that you haven’t:
“Nearly half of parents (48%) surveyed said they do not discuss the risk of social networking with their children, with almost two in three of those attributing this to the belief that their child has more knowledge of the area than them.”
2/3 of 48% is 32%. Almost one in three parents, according to this survey, don’t talk to their kids about internet and social media safety because they think the kids know more about it than they do. Please don’t be one of these parents.
You owe it to your kids – You have taught your kids how to tie their shoes and cross the street safely, perhaps even how to drive or do their laundry. You aren’t going to stop now are you?
Your perspective and experience are important – Even if you aren’t familiar with Snapchat or have never used Ask.fm, you can still be the adult in the virtual room. Ask your teen which social services she is using, how they work, and how her interactions make her feel. If she admits that some things make her feel sad or uncomfortable, you can tackle her problem and lend assistance without being a social media expert.
You can learn something – If you try to guide, or at least understand your teen’s behavior on social media you might learn something about what makes him tick. I’m not a gamer, but talking to one of my teens about League of Legends or Team Fortress gives me some insight into how competitive he is, and what type of challenges excite him. My other teen is into Minecraft, and watching him play for a few minutes shines a light on his imagination and creative side. Seeing him interact in the chat box or over his microphone assures me that he is respectful of other players and is not the dreaded cyberbully even though his scores are quite high.
You can get up to speed – Sure your teens may know more about social media than you do, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of resources online, including on this website, that can help you learn what you need to know. For example, you don’t need to know how to send a picture message on Snapchat, but you can quickly learn what the risks are, and some best practices for your teen using it safely.
Your teens weren’t born with a smartphone – you gave it to them. Nor were they born knowing how to use social media, so the fact that you’re currently behind is no excuse for not putting yourself in a situation where you can help. Any effort that you put in should be well rewarded.
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