This Post: Cyberbullying is on the Rise: 5 Tips to Keep Your Teen Safe Online
Written by: Amy Carpenter
Any parent who’s purchased an iPhone for their child has likely noticed the profound change that takes place once their child gets a hold of the plethora of “instant gratification” that lies at their fingertips.
Regardless of whether the child is a tween, teen or even younger, almost overnight, their phone becomes the center point from which the rest of their life spins making everything they did in their spare time previously seem utterly dull.
As frustrating as this is for parents, there’s a reason phones matter so much to teens and tweens. Their phone isn’t merely a device to call a friend, check the time or browse through the latest TikTok videos, it’s the hub of their social (and romantic) life, their access to mounds of information, and their connection to the outside world – all of which are managed on a palm-sized device that fits easily in the back pocket of their favorite pair of jeans.
Additionally, because being connected to their friends means everything to the average tween or teen, it makes perfect sense that their phone is never far from reach. In fact, according to research, the average teen spends upwards of seven hours a day on their phone. (In truth, adults aren’t much better.)
But the difference between adult phone dependency and teen dependency is massive. Our teens are young and inexperienced when it comes to using discretion when posting online, identifying red flags and knowing what to do when they’re up against a difficult situation.
That’s why, when it comes to keeping your teen safe online, protecting their digital footprint, and preventing cyberbullying and harassment, education is key.
Cyberbullying is on the Rise: 5 Tips to Keep Your Teen Safe Online
Do You Really Know What Your Teen Is Doing Online?
The survey showed that while parents feel confident they know what their teen is doing online, teens think otherwise. More than half of parents with teenagers 14 to 17 claimed they are “extremely” or “very aware” of what their kid is doing online, yet 30 percent of teens believe their parents know “little” or “nothing” about the social media apps they use and the sites they frequent.
According to ParentingMap.com, “The disconnect may come from the time-honored tension between parents’ impulse to protect their kids and teens’ desire for independence. When parents hear horror stories about what kids post on Snapchat and other social media platforms, they double down on their efforts to be more involved. But to teens, this feels intrusive, and they find ways to tiptoe around the issues or appease their parents.”
If they’re lucky, most parents will be in tune with a few apps their teen has on their phone. Or, their teen might share a few funny videos with their parents that they found on TikTok or Instagram. Other than that, a lot of teens have become quite clever at keeping their online profile, activities, and relationships secret.
The Reason Parents Need to Become More Involved…
The harsh reality is, cyberbullying and online harassment among teens is on the rise. According to DigitalTrends.com, there was a 70 percent increase in the amount of cyberbullying and hate speech among teens and children in the months following the Covid lockdown. Teens are concerned as well. According to DoSomething.org, 83 percent of young people said they believe social media companies should be doing more to tackle cyberbullying on their platforms.
If your teen experiences cyberbullying or online harassment, the Cyber Civil Rights Institute suggests taking these steps:
Cyber Harassment and the Law
- Remember that cyber harassment (including being sent naked pictures or having your naked photos shared by someone without approval) is against the law and can lead to jail time, as well as significantly harming chances of future employment, since most employers check social media and online sources before hiring.
- If your teen becomes aware that photos of them are being broadcast online, take screenshots of the posts and relevant internet search results for their name.
- Record URLs and messages. Save this information on your computer and print out a copy to take to the police.
Help Manage Your Teen’s Online Presence
Here are other steps you can take to keep your teen safe online:
Put Parental Controls in Place
While some parents feel accessing or monitoring their kid’s phone might violate their trust, there are plenty of experts who feel a child’s safety should supersede their privacy. Parents of middle schoolers should have full access to online passwords and approve all apps before downloads. Parents of high schoolers might take a step back and allow a bit more freedom (depending on the child and their level of maturity), but parents should still have access to passwords and have the ability to check their child’s phone on a regular basis. Should you decide to use a monitoring app, many experts agree it’s best to be completely upfront with your teen to avoid risking a breach of trust.
Set the Ground Rules
Teens need to know that anything they post never really goes away… even if it’s deleted. All it takes is one person to screenshot an image and it can rear its ugly head days, months, or even years later. Education is the most important thing parents have in their toolbox. Talk to your teen – about your expectations, consequences, legalities, and what’s appropriate and what’s not. Set your ground rules and be firm. When it comes to your teen’s online safety and digital footprint, they need to know you mean business.
- Never share personal information online without first talking to an adult, including name, address, phone number, and social security number.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi networks.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Never send or share revealing images online, through text or direct messages.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
If or when your teen inadvertently posts something they shouldn’t have or is a victim of cyberbullying or harassment, they need to know they can come to you. They need to know that you’re going to be there for them and help them calmly initiate a plan to correct or manage the issue together.
It’s also a good idea to offer your teen advice about other adults they can reach out to (whether it’s a family member, school counselor, or close friend), so they never feel alone or confused about where to turn.
Rely on Your Village
Let friends, relatives, other parents, and even coaches or teachers be your second set of eyes. Encourage them to come to you immediately should they notice your teen posted anything online that’s questionable or if they have reason to believe your teen is being harassed online in any way.
Help Your Teen Build Their “Intuitive Muscle”
Teach your teen that if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If they feel something is wrong, it typically is. Their intuition and feelings are powerful tools that can help them identify when things “aren’t right.” Before sending an image or posting something, they need to learn to think twice. And, when they receive an image or post that makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to fall back on those feelings (and intuition) to take action. Like any other muscle in the human body, intuition is a mental/emotional muscle that becomes stronger the more it is used.
About Amy Carpenter:
Amy Carpenter, LCSW, CYI, is a bestselling author, educator, and psychotherapist with over twenty-five years of experience. Her work has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, USA Today, and hundreds of nationally-syndicated newspaper and magazine outlets. She is the founder of the Be Strong, Be Wise Sexual Assault Awareness and Safety Program, and the author of two books in the bestselling Be Strong, Be Wise series. Contact Amy at: email@example.com or visit the Be Strong Be wise website.