Uplift Voices

Cyber Bullying on Social Media and How You can Monitor and Protect Your Child 

Technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years.  It is estimated that over 5 billion people worldwide have mobile devices and over half of those are smartphones.  It also seems new Apps and social media platforms pop up quite often.  It can be hard to keep up with all the new developments.  However, there are clear leaders among usage popularity. A recent Pew Research Center Survey (2022) targeted teens age 13-17, and showed results that YouTube stands out as the most common online platform teens use out of the platforms measured, with 95% saying they ever use this site or app. Other platforms with high usage were TikTok (67%), Instagram (62%) and Snapchat (59%).  With technological advances and a high level of users, a double-edged sword has made itself known.  On one side, we have instant connection with others and vast amounts of data and knowledge at our fingertips.  On the other side, technology can be a platform for hate promotion and a toxic atmosphere.  Among this toxic atmosphere is cyberbullying.

The Cyber Bullying Research Center defines cyber bullying as the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices”.   Utilizing texts, email and social media platforms, harm is caused by posting pictures and videos meant to shame, humiliate or cause fear in others. Reports show that millions of new users are joining social media every year with people spending about 2½ hours on social media each day – approximately 15% of their waking hours! See more statistics from DataReportal

 If you are a parent, caregiver, or are responsible for a child, you may be wondering how much screen time should be allowed each day and at what age? And what are reasonable and realistic expectations? What might a child encounter on social media and how do I keep them safe? Is it good for their mental health? 

What is social media? 

Social media takes many forms—from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, gaming platforms and messaging services as well as other online communities. Social media allows your child to connect and communicate in a variety of different ways through an app on their phone, a website, or even a game console. 

Tips for setting limits: 

There is no perfect answer for these questions. It is based on the child’s maturity to understand the risks, consequences, and danger of online bullying and what to do and also how social media might affect them if used too much. Just do not let them pressure you into how long a limit you want to set for them and just be clear on rules and expectations. But remember, it is ultimately up to your discretion as a parent or caregiver to have the final say. 

Here are some tips that may help: 

Be clear about which social media sites can be used and how you will keep tabs on this. Obtain all passwords to each application or website. Consider implementing guidelines that your children go online in a communal space in the home, such as the living room or kitchen. 

Make it clear that if certain responsibilities, such as schoolwork and chores, are neglected or not being done on time, use of their devices will be removed until the child is showing responsibility to handle this privilege. 

Educate yourself and your child about social media risks and understand what to look out for when using social media apps. 

Encourage open conversations with your child about social media. Your child may have more awareness of the risks and dangers of social media than you do. Have an open and honest conversation with your child at a young age regarding experiences on social media.  

Watch and observe their interactions. As you and your child become more familiar with usage and trust develops, it will be easier to enjoy the benefits of social media without running into any dangers. 

If your child breaks the rules you’ve agreed to, then make sure that you follow through with the consequences you’ve clearly laid out beforehand (e.g., shutting down an account, taking away their cell phone for a week, etc.). Be fair but firm so that kids know exactly what to expect if they break the rules. 

Cyberbullying Resources: 

Embrace Civility – Educator Nancy Willard provided advice and resources to parents to prevent and educate about the risks of cyberbullying. 

Get Net Wise – The Internet Education Foundation is a comprehensive collection of children’s internet safety as well as family online security. 

iKeepSafe – Privacy Compliance: Made Simple – This site is teaching children and parents how to use the internet safely and in a healthy way through resources and self-assessment. 

The best social networks for younger children | WeLiveSecurity – Social networks for young children to keep them off of the big social networks, most of which send emails to parents detailing activity. 

At Uplift Education as a part of our Shine a Light on Bullying program, we promote “if you see something, say something”.    We want our scholars to come forth and report cyberbullying so that campuses can take appropriate actions and provide needed support.  As part of a positive campus culture, we want our scholars to feel comfortable reporting cyberbullying face to face with campus leadership.  However, for those who are not comfortable or wish to remain anonymous, Uplift has an online reporting system.  

Parents can reinforce treating others with kindness and utilizing technology responsibly.  Uplift Education promotes social and emotional skills through advisory period lessons at all campuses.  We invite parents to have conversations with their scholars on what was emphasized during those lessons and apply the same themes at home. Talking to your children often about their experiences both online and offline can help create safe spaces for them both in the virtual world and the real world.

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