Cyber Safety Tips for Kids – Preventing Cyberbullying and Inappropriate “Friends”

cyber-safety-tips-for-kidsHow to prevent – and stop — Cyberbullying

In our last blog post, we discussed preparing for the new school year by taking certain safety precautions with your children’s internet use, whether on their smartphones, on home computers or even in the classroom. This week we’re going to continue that discussion by talking about cyberbullying. As children start a new year they naturally make many new friends. Most of the time, those friendships are healthy and normal. But sometimes friendships go sour. Our kids get bullied. And in the 21st century, that bullying can get very ugly – and very public — with the use of social media.

What exactly is cyberbullying? According to HelpGuide.org, “cyberbullying occurs when a person uses the Internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms, or other digital technology to harass, threaten or humiliate another person.”

A cyberbully can be a boy or a girl. He or she is often anonymous, able to hide behind a screen name. And with the internet, their bullying tactics can be employed 24/7 with the use of a smartphone or computer. Unlike physical or personal forms of bullying, cyberbullying can be very public. “With a few clicks,” HelpGuide says, “the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.”

The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating to a child of any age. That’s why it is so important for parents to monitor their children’s social media behavior using various methods to ensure their children’s safe and effective use of the internet for school work and positive social interactions. We put together a list of tips to help you keep tabs on your children’s online behavior and prepare you to handle instances of cyberbullying should they ever arise.

The best way to handle cyberbullying is to stop it before it starts with preventative measures.

Cyber Safety Tips for Kids – Preventing Cyberbullying

  • Keep information private. Tell your child to never post or share his/her personal information online or on social networks. Remind him/her not to share friends’ information as well. Personal information may include their full name, school name – even on a shirt, email address, phone number, home address, DOB and no pictures of a new driving license!
  • Don’t share passwords. No child should share passwords with anyone, except parents.
  • Keep communication lines open. As with everything in your child’s life, ask questions; create dialog. Don’t pry or interrogate, but make conversation with your child about his/her online life. Create a sharing and open communication environment in your home.
  • Be smart about what is shared. Remind your child that he/she may regret some of the photos or words used online. He/She should always think twice about what is posted online or said in an email.
  • Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. One way you can do this is by installing a family safety app like MamaBear on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your child’s behavior on social networks, including when he/she makes new friends and is tagged in posts, photos or at locations. Be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to his/her profile.

What your child can do if faced with a cyberbully

  • Do not respond to the cyberbully. According to ConnectSafely.org, if your child is being bullied, remind him/her that the bully wants a reaction. So tell your child not to give him what he wants.
  • Block the cyberbully. Use preferences or privacy settings to block the bully. This might not make the problem go away, but it helps reduce the options a bully has for targeting a victim.
  • Ask for help. Remind your child that if he/she is being bullied, it’s OK to ask a parent for help. He/She can also turn to a school counselor or teacher. He/She shouldn’t have to face cyberbullying alone. A comfortable solution can be worked on together.
  • Report abuse. Use a social network’s “abuse” tools to report bullying to the social network administrators. If there is a physical threat involved, contact the authorities.
  • Save any and all evidence. Thankfully, cyberbullying is usually recorded or saved somewhere and can be retrieved if necessary in the event that things get out of hand.
  • Don’t retaliate: Don’t perpetuate the cycle of abuse by retaliating or resorting to the same kind of behavior as the cyberbully. ConnectSafely.org says “getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior.”
  • Stand up for what’s right: Tell your kids not to participate in a cyberbullying culture. They can refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages and stand up against cyberbullying among their friends.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about cyberbullying. Thankfully, while cyberbullying is a very real threat, following these preventative measures and action steps can help any parent and child work together to stop a cyberbully in his tracks, leaving social media for its proper use: as a way to bond, share and strengthen positive relationships.

Help prevent cyberbullying with the MamaBear app, available on Android devices here and iPhone devices here.

 

photo credit: > ange < via photopin cc

Back to School Safety Tips – Staying Safe Online at Home, at School and Everywhere

back to school tips

A new school year is full of excitement and opportunities for children. New activities and new friendships are forged while a whole new learning adventure begins. Along with the excitement and novelty of a new school year, children with smart phones, tablets and classroom computers can be exposed to threats from online predators and bullies as they are also being exposed to a wide world of information and learning.
Thankfully, there are several precautions a parent can take at the start of a school year to keep children safe while allowing them the freedom to enjoy technology. Taking a few back to school tech safety precautions is every bit as important as buying school supplies and new clothes, meeting teachers and doing all the necessary things to prepare a child for the new school year.

Back to School Technology Safety Tips

Here are some back to school tips to help keep your children safe during the school year:

  1. Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. According to an article at Education World, you can do this in a number of ways: by talking to your children, monitoring their apps and by setting up internet usage rules. You can also install the MamaBear Family Safety App on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your children’s behavior on Facebook and Instagram, including when they make new friends and are tagged in posts, photos or at locations. Be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to their profile with restricted word alerts. Also, teach your child that if you wouldn’t say something in person, you shouldn’t say it on social.
  2. Set up parental restrictions on their mobile devices. iPhones have a great parental restriction settings to monitor age appropriate content, music, apps and gives parents the opportunity to restrict in-app purchasing, adding apps or deleting apps. On iPhones go to settings/general/restrictions to set them up. On Android devices, a recent update to the operating system allows for some device restrictions for parents. Right now Android 4.3/Jelly Bean is available on Nexus devices but manufactures of other device types are anticipating a roll-out of the new operating system. Until then check Google Play for other apps that help with device restrictions.
  3. Control internet use at home. Place your children’s computer in a public area so they can’t isolate themselves when online. Limit the amount of time to use the Internet, or simply disable WiFi at certain times of the day to restrict his/her internet access. Set rules for mobile devices too. For instance, charge phones overnight in a common area, not in their bedrooms at night. Check up on their browser history on their phones for use of unacceptable content.
  4. Be aware of your child’s computer use at school. Ask questions about what their computer use is in the classroom. Create an open dialog that holds your child – and his/her teachers – accountable. Also, know your child’s school’s internet policy. Be aware of how your school district handles internet safety by visiting the school’s website and/or talking to school faculty and administration. If you have concerns about the policy, consider working to improve the Internet safety standards of the school district.
  5. Pay attention to warning signs. Be aware of whether your child is spending an increased amount of time online or on their phones, is isolating themselves, appears withdrawn or is exhibiting troubled behavior. These could be signs that your child’s safety is threatened. Awareness is one of the best ways to keep your children safe with their mobile devices.

Going back to school is one of the most exciting times of the year for parents and their children. Keep that time fun and special by following these back to school internet safety tips, protecting your child so that she can safely embark on the adventure of a new academic year.

The MamaBear app helps parents around the world to worry less about their children. Download the app today for iPhone devices here and Android devices here.

Sleepover Parties and Digital Device Use

sleepover-parties-digital-device-use

Sleepover parties generate lasting memories for our kids and lasting bonds with their peers. Some of my greatest childhood memories were while staying at a friend’s house and now my two boys beg to sleepover with a friend or have a friend stay the night just about every weekend. Today, digital media and screen time have turned sleepovers into a new environment and have become part of the parental discussion before sleepovers – should my kid bring their device, will you monitor their use, what time will you take their devices away for night, will they be behind closed doors with their devices?

Video rentals and late night board games have given way to streaming movies, social media and internet connect game consoles. Connectivity to even more people outside of the sleepover is now an option. The peer pressure and potentially skewed judgment of fun with friends mixed with available connectivity can lead to some embarrassing or reputation damaging consequences.

Adult content, chat rooms, webcam chat rooms, desired attention and bullying on the web and on social media are all very real threats that kids could face during the well intended sleepover. And then of course, there’s always the discussion of sneaking out to prank another friend or get into other mischief. Did you ever sneak out at a sleepover? Do you worry your kids will?

The MamaBear app can help minimize anxiety when you let your children stay the night out. Our location and social media monitoring can put your mind at ease and reduce the risk of potentially dangerous situations for our kids.

Give your children freedom to create some of the best memories of their lives when they aren’t with you. They can learn powerful lessons in independence, responsibility and accountability. But, you don’t have to suffer with worry and anxiety or text them every 5 minutes to check on them. Let the powerful suite of tools MamaBear app offers alert you to only the information needed to protect your kids. Parents can receive alerts if the child leaves the house or moves at preset driving speed. Social media alerts give parents an early warning about compromising photos, posts and inappropriate contacts and followers on Facebook and Instagram. The MamaBear child monitoring app gives parents the tools they need to sleep easy while the kids spend all night doing what they do best, being kids.