The other day I found out that the pre-teen daughter of a friend of mine was the victim of cyber-bullying.
Police have been called, there are possible criminal charges, the police will be talking to school officials. And yes, it’s that bad.
Without going into much detail, I will tell you this pre-teen bully not only caused great emotional and psychological pain to this girl and her family, but she also manipulated online postings so that there is the possibility of opening the victim up to sexual predators, including giving out her home location.
This is a serious situation.
The bully used to be good friends with the victim. I don’t know what caused the falling out, but I know this isn’t the way to handle it. I also know that the is the first generation of young kids having to deal with this kind of danger, which makes us the first generation of parents having to deal with it in younger kids.
So what can you do?
Well, every family & situation is different, but I’ll tell you what we are doing, plan to do, and how we are approaching it with our kids.
#1 – mobile devices are charged overnight in our bedroom. We started this when our oldest got her iPad at age six. She will grow up with this being the normal way things are.
#2 – the security on said mobile devices will be locked down very tightly, gradually lessening said security as they get older. I have to give my husband credit for this one. He has her iPad locked down with incredible security. She basically cannot communicate with anyone, even within games or apps, without our permission.
#3 – we have told her now that we will read her messages later. We explained why (age appropriately). We talk about bullies, bad people, and safety. We talk about how our #1 job is keeping her safe. We tell her that we don’t want to read private things, but sometimes we might have to just to make sure she’s safe. She will grow up with this as a normal, loving thing for her parents to do.
#4 – we plan to mount the giant flatscreen monitor for our computer on the wall. In the living room. It won’t be the most attractive setup, but there will be no hiding what you are doing online. We have an open floor plan, and this set up will allow that screen to be seen from all four common areas of our house. Our children are still young, and we plan to do this within the year, again making it something they will grow up with, something “normal”.
You may notice a common theme here. We are not waiting until they are older. We are not waiting until something bad happens. We are instituting rules now, when the girls are young, when the rules don’t even really apply to them yet, so that they will grow up understanding that these actions are normal and we are doing them because we love them and want to keep them safe.
In fact, my oldest has been asking for a Kids YouTube account lately so she can post videos. Yesterday she came up with the idea of it being a joint account, with only me having the password, so that I have to approve anything she posts, and screen any comments before she sees them. Her idea. Because us screening her computer & tablet activity is so “normal” to her that it’s not a big deal. Still haven’t decided though.
I would love to find a really good program that blocks inappropriate content as well, but I have yet to find one. I’ve found ones that send you reports (after it’s too late), or ones that block way too much (sorry for locking you out of all of Google, husband), but none with a good balance for families. Which I think is ridiculous because many employers have great systems that block sites and messages based on specific key words, but I have yet to find a similar one for families. If you know of any, please comment below. I’m sure my readers would love to know as well.
Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day!