Expert: Parents must help children prevent cyberbullying

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With the start of the traditional school year almost here, now is the time to get familiar with cyberbullying and how to protect kids online.

It’s happened too many times – elementary, middle and high school students bullied online and pushed to a fatal breaking point.

Even if your child isn’t targeted at school, any child can become the victim of online bullying. And talking about it isn’t easy.

“It’s tough because kids can be embarrassed, afraid or ashamed,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that helps families use technology safely.

He said that while it can be uncomfortable, it’s critical to have a direct and honest conversation about the social sites your child uses.

“You can also check their computer. You’re the parent – check it out. Talk to them about what life is like online,” he said.

Some parents may have heard of apps like Whisper or Secret, which are appealing because users can write posts about people and never reveal their identity.

“Those anonymous apps are the sites of a ton of cyberbullying,” Steyer said. “So ask your kids if they’re aware.”

Other apps like Snapchat promise to make comments and pictures disappear. But Steyer said that’s not necessarily true.

“People take screen shots and those images can last forever. If you put it out, it’s part of your history. You’ve got to be careful about that,” he said.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s school about these apps.

“I’d also ask your kids school to make sure they know about it and have rules about cyber citizenship – don’t bully, don’t self-reveal before you self-reflect.”

It’s not just about protecting your child from bullies, it’s making sure your child isn’t the one causing the pain just as a bully would

“It’s so much easier to say something mean to somebody when it’s anonymous or you don’t have to have to look them in the eyes,” Steyer said. “I think you say, ‘Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine what it’s like to experience that.’”

Cyberbullying is a real phenomenon, Steyer said. He also said that it really comes down to having honest conversations – making sure your school has a policy about cyberbullying, making sure your child understands empathy so they’re not being bullies and basically, taking a stand against bullying.

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