MARIETTA, Ga. — Heads up, parents! With your kids spending more time online, experts are warning that cyber-bullying is a very real concern.
Local agencies, such as the Marietta Police Department, are posting warnings online for parents and students, making them aware that just because kids aren’t in school, doesn’t mean they won’t experience bullying this year.
Cyber-bullying can happen on cell phones, computers and tablets through texts, apps and social media, according to the stopbullying.gov website. IT defines cyber-bullying as sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else. Cyber-bullying can range from the sharing of personal or private information causing embarrassment or humiliation to potential unlawful or criminal behavior.
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Experts say there are several things that you, as a parent, can do to help protect your child from cyber-bullying.
- Notice – Recognize if there has been a change in a child’s mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine whether these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.
- Talk – Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
- Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
- Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyber-bullying, report it the school. You can also contact an app or social media platform to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
- Support – Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content is posted about a child. Public intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and to the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
Here’s a list of places that parents should watch out for potential cyber-bullying:
- Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Tik Tok
- Text messaging and messaging apps on phones or tables
- Instant messages, direct messages and online chats
- Online forums, chat rooms and message boards like Reddit
- Email and online gaming communities
The biggest takeaway from both police and the cyber-bullying website is for parents to be aware of what their kids are exposed to on different online platforms and to monitor their online activities from time to time.