If you saw me on "Tennessee Mornings," you may have heard for the first time about Internet Bullying or "Cyberbullying." Bullying does not happen only at school. Unfortunately, for today's kids, technology has enabled bullying to exist 24/7. As parents, there are many things that we can do to help our kids tackle this problem successfully.
Get involved. If your kids are online, you should be, too. Whatever social networking site they prefer, get yourself an account and join them. Think of it like this: Many times parents drop their kids off at the mall and then leave. I'm not that kind of parent. With my middle school age kids, I always find something to do at the mall while my kids are there. I don't hang out with them the whole time, but I am present. Does that make sense? You don't just drop your kids off in cyberspace. Create an account and establish your own presence there, too.
Get legal. Many parents today are drawing up contracts that allow them to establish rules for their child's online behavior. This would include times that the child is allowed to be online, settings that must be in place, and calling on the child to "pledge" to maintain certain behaviors. Your contract can spell out exactly what you expect, including how to treat others with respect and dignity online.
Get real. As always, kids look at parents to model appropriate behavior online. How do they know what to expect and how to function without looking at us to see what we do? Never harrass or joke about other people online, whether it is a person you know personally or a celebrity, politician, or athlete that you are raking over the coals in a public forum. In spite of the plethora of screens surrounding our kids, they are watching us parents first.