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How can I protect my child from online predators and bullies?

Shawn Edgington
Pediatrics
It’s all about proactive awareness and involvement so we can safeguard our children when they’re using social media. If we understand what the steps are that we need to take, we can teach our children about the potential dangers of social networking, and empower them to protect themselves from online predators and cyberbullies.

Take note of the 7 steps to safeguarding your children online:

1. Communication is king. We need to talk to our children and empower them to defend against textual harassment, online predators, sexting and cyberbullies. We talk about sex, drugs and drinking, but now we’ve got to make it a point to add the dangers of technology to our “don’t” list.

2. Execute a contract that spells out the “rules of engagement.” It’s important to define cell phone and Internet boundaries and consequences before there’s a problem. If rules are broken, we need to have a response plan ready to go.

3. Live by the social network rules. The dangers around social networking are extreme, and are usually the place where cyberbullies make their homes. Get to know what your kids are doing on sites like Facebook, YouTube and Skype to help them protect themselves from danger.

4. Understand the signs of cyberbullying. Use proactive and defensive measures to help your kids defend against online bullies.

5. Use “parental controls” to set text boundaries. Setting text boundaries is crucial to the health and safety of our children.

6. Teach your kids to ignore/block/report. Empowering children to employ the ignore/block/report system is critical should they ever be harassed by text message.

7. Know if your child is a cyberbully and take responsibility! The only way you’re going to know if your child is responsible for causing other children grief while using social media is if you’re paying attention to what they’re doing online and how they’re using their mobile devices. If you find out your child is to blame for any online harassment, it’s your responsibility to take action to eliminate their ability to continue their assaults!

As parents, we have to stay in the know, be aware of what’s really happening on the Wild Wild Web, and keep the lines of communication open, no matter what! It’s not sticks and stones anymore; it’s the relentless and continuous threats and ongoing harassment that’s hurting our teens -- it’s literally breaking down their self-esteem -- text by text and post by post.

Teaching your kid how to make safe choices online is key to protecting them from online bullies. Watch this video to learn what psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein suggests you do to keep your child safe on the Internet.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.