I’m not sure there is a ‘best’ age to allow your child to have an email, facebook, twitter, etc. account but I do know that before you do it is necessary that YOU teach them how to be a good cyber citizen and how to avoid cyberbullying. I stress it is up to you because it is all to amazing how many parents I hear from who think it is the responsibility of their child’s school to provide this knowledge. I’m sure some schools are more active in this area than most, but for the most part schools have NO specific training in cyber use. So unlike health and sexual education it is the sole responsibility of the parent.
This lack of training in school will change quickly as the internet becomes more and more vital to K-12 education, but until that time here are some tips we as parents can use to help our children deal with cyberbullies.
1. Take the internet seriously. Sure it is ‘virtual’ but remember reality is what we make it.
2. Writing is usually not the best thing to do without some thought, consideration and editing before sending or posting a message. Feelings can be easily hurt both on purpose and not on purpose thorough sloppy or fast writing.
3. Take ‘friending’ serious and only friend people you know. Having more ‘friends’ that someone else may seem cool but it also means you must manage those friendships and be prepared for information, comments or criticism you don’t ask for or really want.
4. If you feel someone is harassing you ask them to stop once or twice. If it continues unfriend, block or mark their messages as spam. Ignoring or choosing not too fight is usually all it takes to stop cyber harassment.
5. If needed change your information. Create a new Facebook, twitter or email account. It usually doesn’t cost anything and it is pretty easy to re-establish the connections you want
6. Remember NEVER share your password! Also make your password unique and change it every so often. A good password will be 7 characters or more and use Upper and lower case letters and numbers.
7. Never keep your account open on a public computer! Always sign off and if possible close that application and even better restart the computer. Also, be care full who is around you as you log on.
8. If you get upset about something said ask someone else that you trust (i.e., parent or sibling) for their impression. Never respond to something if you are mad. Reflect before you send!
9. If there is ever a physical or verbal threat sent to you or posted immediately tell your parent or law enforcement agency.
10. Know that if you ever feel scared, overwhelmed or trapped it is time to talk to an adult or law enforcement officer you have known and can trust.
11. NEVER ARRANGE TO MEET ANYONE YOU HAVE MET ONLINE. If the other party suggests meeting discuss it with your parents. Note to adults…if you are meeting someone you met online make sure you let a couple of other people know and only meet in a public place!
12. NEVER post your birthdate, phone number, address, passwords or other personal information about yourself family or friends.
13. Remember that once you post something it is typically impossible to ‘truly’ remove it.
If any reader would like to add to this please send me a note and I’ll add it!
Other sources of information include: