To Your Health: Teach Your Child Online Safety This Summer

internet-safetySchool officially is out for the summer—meaning children will be spending their days largely under the sun, but also in front of the computer screen. Cyberbullying is a serious summer concern as children have less supervision and more time to spend online, becoming more vulnerable to attack. Traditional face-to-face bullying also can occur at summer camps, playgrounds, or other common play spaces.

What is cyberbullying?

Bullying is the use of unwanted intimidation by force or influence to change one’s behavior to suit the aggressor’s wishes. This behavior might be repeated. Cyberbullying is typically not face-to-face or physically aggressive, but is channeled through technology like the Internet, text messaging, or social media. Cyberbullying might involve name-calling, threats, forms of humiliation, and harassment. This can emotionally affect a child through rumors and social rejection by peers. Due to the anonymity facilitated by the Internet, cyberbullies can be tricky to identify and stop. They can strike over different forms of social media, chatrooms, text message, and more.

Identifying the signs of cyberbullying

Changes in a child’s behavior and mood might suggest that he or she is a victim of cyberbullying. Look for:

•Depression or anxiety after the use of cell phone or the Internet.

•Disrupted eating or sleeping patterns.

•Bad or worsened behavior and sudden outbursts.

•Social withdrawal, sudden changes in friendships.

How to help

If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying, it’s important to appropriately intervene.
•Talk to your child, stressing open and honest communication. If your child is transparent with you about the situation, you will better understand how to help.

•Don’t criticize the way that your child has attempted to handle the cyberbullying. Acknowledge his or her struggle, and offer your support. Let your child know you want to make him or her feel comfortable again.

•Work with your child to create a course of action to follow if the bullying continues. Block any cell phone numbers with harassing messages and any threatening social media accounts. Actively spend time on activities that don’t involve any technology. If you feel it is appropriate and necessary to intervene, do so carefully.

•Report the bullying to the appropriate authorities. Make sure to keep evidence of the offenses.

Preventing cyberbullying

Remember to monitor your child’s online activities. Stay informed about the new social media trends. Make sure to teach your child that online privacy is extremely important, that personal information should not be discussed online, and that his or her social media profiles should never be public. Social media websites involving photo sharing, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, are extremely popular, and pictures can be used maliciously if they fall into the wrong hands. Encourage your child to be cautious and not to engage in conversation with Internet “trolls”—people who deliberately make controversial comments to create conflict.

This summer, teach your child safe ways to use technology, and don’t forget to encourage him or her to focus on having summer fun in “real-time.”

Marta Markman, MD, is a MedStar Harbor Hospital pediatrician located at 795 Aquahart Road, Suite 205, in Glen Burnie. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 410-590-8826.

Source: Capital Gazette