Cyberbullying and Parental Controls: A Layer of Protection

Cyberbullying has become a growing issue as more kids and teens spend time online. While social media and technology can connect us in amazing ways, they also open the door to bullying behaviours. As a parent, you want to protect your child from cyberbullying whether they are the victim or perpetrator. Implementing parental controls can be an important layer of protection against bullying. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other technology. It can take many forms, including:

  • Posting harmful content about someone on social media
  • Sharing embarrassing photos or videos without consent 
  • Excluding someone from group messages or online activities
  • Sending unwanted, offensive, or threatening messages, images, or videos
  • Spreading rumours or lies about someone online
  • Impersonating someone online to make them look bad
  • Publicly sharing someone’s private information to humiliate them

It can be especially harmful since it can spread quickly to a wide audience and the victim may not know who is behind the bullying. The hurtful messages, images, and content can also remain online indefinitely.

Why Do Kids Cyberbully Others?

There are a few reasons why a young person may engage in cyberbullying:

  • They think it’s harmless fun or a joke
  • They feel anonymous or removed from the impact of their actions online
  • They are mimicking behaviours seen online or in the media
  • They are lacking in empathy
  • They have impulse control issues and don’t think through the consequences
  • They have been the victims of bullying themselves
  • They are influenced by peer pressure and do it to impress friends
  • They don’t fully understand the harmful impacts of cyberbullying

Many kids don’t realize how serious cyberbullying is and its psychological impacts. Cyberbullying should not be brushed off as normal kid behaviour. It needs to be addressed seriously.

Signs Your Child is Being Cyberbullied

As a parent, be alert for potential signs of cyberbullying including:

  • Increased anxiety when using devices or going online
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and activities they used to enjoy
  • Declining grades and school performance 
  • Not wanting to go to school and skipping school
  • Changes in mood, behaviour, sleep or appetite
  • Avoiding conversations about their online activities
  • Closing apps or screens quickly when you walk by

Your child may not tell you directly they are being cyberbullied, but these warning signs suggest you check in with them. Tell them you are a safe person they can talk to and you just want to help.

5 Ways Parental Controls Combat Cyberbullying

Parental control tools offer various ways to help combat cyberbullying and protect your kids whether they are 6 or 16. Here are 5 key benefits:

1. Block Harmful Content

Parental controls let you filter out inappropriate and explicit websites. This helps limit exposure to content that promotes cyberbullying behaviours like harassing comments, aggression, or hate speech.

2. Limit Social Media

You can restrict social media apps and websites known for enabling cyberbullying like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter. Limiting time on these apps reduces the chances of cyberbullying.

3. Monitor Communications 

View text messages, chat logs, and emails for any signs of cyberbullying whether your child is the victim or perpetrator. Tracking communications helps you identify issues early.

4. Set Social Media Privacy

Configure social media privacy settings so only approved friends can interact with your child. This prevents contact with anonymous profiles who may cyberbully.

5. Manage Screen Time

Prevent late-night social media scrolling and enable downtime away from devices. This reduces opportunities for impulsive behaviors including cyberbullying.  

While no parental controls are 100% foolproof, they add essential layers of protection against the threat of cyberbullying. You still need open conversations with your kids about online ethics and safety.

Have Direct Conversations About Cyberbullying

Along with parental controls, it’s crucial to directly discuss cyberbullying with your children both the dangers of partaking in bullying and how to handle being bullied. Here are some tips for constructive conversations:

  • Ask questions and allow your child to share their unfiltered thoughts without judgment 
  • Remind them the internet is permanent and their digital footprint will follow them
  • Teach empathy and ethical online behavior from an early age
  • Outline your expectations for treating others with kindness online
  • Explore underlying reasons why someone may bully or be a bystander 
  • Share real stories of how cyberbullying has hurt people 
  • Provide strategies for dealing with bullying like speaking to a trusted adult
  • Reassure your child that you are there for them if they experience cyberbullying

Parental conversations need to happen regularly, not just one time. As kids grow their online activities change, so keep those lines of communication open.  

Take Action if You Discover Cyberbullying 

If you uncover that your child is the victim, perpetrator, or witness of cyberbullying, take prompt action. 

If your child is being bullied online:

  • Console them and reassure them it is not their fault
  • Advise them not to retaliate or respond to the bully
  • Document evidence of cyberbullying
  • Report abusive content to apps or social networks so it is removed
  • Block the cyberbully’s account/profile
  • Talk to your child’s school about the bullying
  • In extreme cases, contact the police

If you learn your child is cyberbullying others:

  • Have a serious discussion about their behaviour and require the bullying to stop
  • Enforce consequences like device restrictions or removal of social media privileges 
  • Increase supervision of their online activities
  • Identify any triggers that proceed the bullying like anger issues
  • Get counselling or therapy for underlying reasons behind bullying
  • Have your child apologize directly to the victim
  • Alert your child’s school of the bullying

Cyberbullying equates to harassment and needs to be stopped. Both victims and perpetrators of bullying need support to correct the behaviour Don’t hesitate to reach out to counselling services, school administrators, or law enforcement if the situation warrants.  

Parental Controls Combined With Communication is Key

Cyberbullying can inflict lasting emotional damage if unchecked. Parents have an important role to play in protecting children from cyberbullying before it starts and addressing it head-on if it occurs. Utilizing parental control tools provides necessary monitoring of kids’ digital lives. Combining controls with frequent, open conversations encourages kids to be upstanders not bystanders. With parents’ help, kids can feel empowered to combat cyberbullying.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age should I start parental controls to protect against cyberbullying?

Parental controls can be implemented once your child starts any independent activities online, typically around ages 6-9. Controls should adapt as they age into the tween and teen years when cyberbullying is more prevalent.

Can parental controls filter live chat and messages?

Yes, many parental control tools can live to monitor chats across platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp, Roblox, and Discord. They notify you of any concerning bullying in chats.

My teen needs a phone for safety but I’m concerned about cyberbullying – what do I do?

Install parental controls on their smartphone to filter content and limit screen time. Block problematic apps but allow educational ones. Monitor concerning messages and reassure them the controls are for their protection.

Is it healthy to monitor everything my teen does online?

While you do need visibility, allow some privacy as well once your teen proves they are behaving responsibly online. Have ongoing talks about your expectations. Monitoring with no context can breed resentment.

I discovered my teen is the cyberbully – now what?

Have a candid discussion about their conduct and get to the root of what is prompting them to bully others. Make counselling sessions mandatory and enforce lasting consequences like device or social media restrictions. Stress that bullying must cease immediately.

What if parental controls don’t block everything?

No solution is 100% foolproof but combining parental controls with frequent conversations is your best bet. Stress you are there to listen if they encounter content you may have missed. Don’t hesitate to contact app developers about holes in their filters.

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