Keeping teens safe online
If teens are being cyberbullied, they may exhibit the signs of traditional bullying. They may also avoid discussions about their online activities. They may appear unhappy, irritable, or distressed, particularly after using the computer or viewing their cell phone. There may be a distinct change in how often they use the computer.
Teens are often afraid to talk to parents about their cyberbullying experiences out of fear their online activities will be restricted. Reassure your teen you will not take away their phone or Internet, but if they encounter anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable, or if they receive any messages or view content that is harassing or upsetting that it is important to talk to an adult.
If teens are cyberbullying others, they may have a history of aggression or bullying in more traditional ways, or have friends who do. They may also be more secretive about their online activities, switching screens or programs when others walk by. They may spend long hours online or become upset if they cannot use the computer. They may also use multiple online accounts and appear agitated or animated when online.
There have been a number of stories in the media over the past few years concerning cyberbullying. Use these as a starting point for a conversation with your teen about what is considered acceptable behaviour both on and off-line. Set family guidelines and rules for online behaviour. Encourage teens to think how they would feel if they were the target of cyberbullying.
Check out the Cyber Tool put together by Media Smarts, Canada's Center for Digital and Media Literacy. This valuable resource kit contains a self-directed tutorial that examines the moral dilemmas kids face in their online activities and offers strategies for helping youth deal with them; lesson plans for teachers of grades 5 and 6 that focus on search skills and critical thinking; and tip sheets for parents that provide useful ideas and strategies on how to teach your kids to be safe and ethical online.