This post is sponsored by Bitdefender
The third Friday in June is recognized as global Stop Cyberbullying Day. Designed to celebrate and promote a truly inclusive and diverse online environment, the day’s goal is to take action against online bullying and abuse by creating a safer, more inclusive online world. But what if we directed our attention to the positive and focused on how to teach cyber confidence instead?
What is Cyberbullying?
We know cyberbullying takes place on every digital platform and device. Sending hurtful messages, posting inappropriate photos or videos on social media, hacking accounts, and spreading mean rumors online are examples of cyberbullying.
It can also include excluding people from online groups or chats or instigating others to isolate someone from a peer group. Revealing private information about someone is also considered cyberbullying.
Instances of cyberbullying occur on social media and through gaming platforms, email, instant messaging apps, and more.
The Impacts of Cyberbullying
Subjecting someone to repeated and unwanted words, images, and actions is harmful. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of teens in the United State say they’ve been bullied, threatened, or harassed online. A study by UNICEF found 1 in 3 between the ages of 13-24 in 30 countries have confirmed some form of cyberbullying caused them to skip classes.
Cyberbullying can lead to long-lasting mental health issues as well as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It also could prevent someone from reaching their full academic potential.
Understanding the consequences of cyberbullying and how to defend against it is important but we can take digital citizenship lessons farther to teach cyber confidence.
4 Ways to Teach Cyber Confidence
Today’s kids are part of the generation that will further define the digital world. It’s necessary to bolster their self-esteem, teach resilience, and encourage self-care. They also need to be taught that the way they treat each other in real life and online matters. Here are 4 ways to teach cyber confidence at home.
1. Model expected behavior
By modeling behavior we expect from our kids both in-person and online, we set the tone through our interactions with them and those around us. Reinforcing kindness matters because when we work together for a better internet, everyone wins!
2. Encourage reflection
It’s hard to not be impulsive and act, especially when emotions are high. Teaching kids the importance of taking a moment to reflect forces them to pause before reacting. Think time aids them in making better decisions about what to say and how to deliver their message. It can also prevent them from saying or typing things in ways they may regret later. Parents can reinforce the importance of pausing, reflecting, and using words in a positive way, both in-person or through electronic methods of communication.
3. Use negative interactions as teachable moments
Sometimes negative interactions can become the most impactful teachable moments. Kids of all ages are exposed to online and offline behaviors with negative messages that promote bad behavior. While it’s always helpful to have a teachable moment to spark a conversation about what you might do differently, work together to think about how to reframe negative interactions into positive ones.
4. Empower kids to stand up for themselves and their friends
Often our kids feel uncomfortable with what’s going on around them, yet they don’t feel comfortable standing up for themselves or their peers. Instead of being uneasy with what’s happening, they should know they have the power to be upstanders who can change the conversation. Empowering our kids to be upstanders encourages them to take the high road. Let them know it’s always ok to stand up for things they know are wrong.
Favorite Resources that Teach Cyber Confidence
Working together to teach cyber confidence doesn’t happen in a day. It’s a continuous process that involves ongoing conversations to raise young digital citizens who are empowered to be confident both online and off. Here are three of my favorite resources that teach cyber confidence.
Topics like internet security and cyberbullying can feel very abstract to kids. When they understand the risks that come from using the internet and digital devices, they’re able to make better decisions to keep themselves safe. This presentation from Bitdefender provides helpful information to parents about cybersecurity topics and online safety. Knowledge can be used to have important conversations to make kids aware of the different kinds of cyberbullying and how to prevent it. Bitdefender also has a free lesson about cyberbullying for teachers to use in their classroom with students. Access the PDF here.
Be Internet Awesome from Google
These free resources from Google aim to create healthy, productive online spaces for our kids to interact. Be Internet Awesome provides parents and teachers with tools and information to teach cyber confidence and better manage family technology use. The free online Interland game is a fun interactive way kids can practice digital citizenship skills to be safer online.
Common Sense Media features free age-appropriate digital citizenship lessons and activities to teach essential digital habits and skills. Lessons are geared towards grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and high school. Content of the lessons builds on itself to teach cyber confidence and help kids take ownership of their digital lives. Common Sense Media also provides parent resources.
What to Do if You Think Your Child Might Be a Victim of Cyberbullying
Even as we work to educate our kids about online safety and teach cyber confidence, there’s still a chance they could become victims of cyberbullying. Signs of cyberbullying and what to do if your child is a victim was part of a conversation I recently had with Bogdan Botezatu, Director of Threat Research and Reporting at Bitdefender.
Bogdan is a father of an 8 year old who is starting to use the internet more but isn’t using mobile devices. He asked me what parents should look for and do to support their child if they’ve been cyberbullied.
Cyberbullying takes a toll on mental health and can contribute to serious anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Here are 4 things to do if you think your child has been cyberbullied:
- Keep an eye on your child and be aware of any changes to their behavior. Inability to sleep, loss of interest in things they used to love, not wanting to be around their regular group of friends, or a decline in academic performance could indicate something is wrong.
- Trust your instincts. If you think something could be wrong, it probably is.
- Don’t shy away from a conversation just because it could be uncomfortable. Asking questions is the only way you get a sense of what’s happening.
- Offer support without being accusatory. Let them know you’re there to help if something is wrong and seek help from a professional, such as a therapist, who can address trauma while working to bolster self-esteem.
In honor of June 16th being Stop Cyberbullying Day, Bitdefender is inviting families to turn the tables on cyberbullying with praise. For every negative comment you see online, share five positive comments. We want praise online praise to balance out the negative effects of cyberbullying. This promotes good digital citizenship and helps teach cyber confidence.
This post was sponsored by Bitdefender but all opinions are my own.