No parent wants to learn that his or her child is cyberbullying others. But what parents often don't realize is that preventing cyberbullying sometimes requires more than just teaching kids to be nice.
Instead, parents need to have regular conversations with their kids about online safety, cyberbullying and digital etiquette. In fact, equipping kids with digital etiquette skills can go a long way in preventing them from becoming cyberbullies. Kids are more likely to behave properly online when they know what is expected of them.
Here are the top five things to teach your kids about digital etiquette.
Treat others how you want to be treated.
Almost everyone is familiar with this "golden rule." But sometimes kids need to be reminded about good manners, even online. Make sure they know that it's always best to discuss sensitive or potentially volatile issues with the person directly rather than posting something online or sending a hurtful e-mail.
Keep your messages and posts positive and truthful.
Encourage kids to censor their messages and posts to be sure they are not being sarcastic, negative or rude. They also should avoid posting anything that is not true such as rumors or gossip. Kids also should know what cyberbullying is and that they should never engage in that type of behavior.
Double-check your messages before you hit send.
Teaching kids to slow down and think about their posts, comments and e-mails is crucial. They need to realize that once they press send, there is no way to take back their words. Encourage them to read their messages again to see if they could be misinterpreted or if they come off sarcastic.
Kids also need to realize that being funny online is a very hard thing to accomplish. The person on the other end cannot see their facial expressions or hear their tone of voice. Sometimes a message that is meant to be funny doesn't come off that way at all.
Keep your friends' secrets.
Today's world is saturated with photos, texts and videos that can be posted, copied, forwarded, downloaded and altered in a matter of minutes. Encourage your kids to ask themselves how they would feel if one of their most embarrassing moments was put on display for the world to see.
Remind your kids to think about what they are about to post. They should ask themselves the following questions: Did my friends tell me this in confidence? Will it embarrass them? Will sharing this information compromise their privacy or stir up drama? If they answer yes to any of those questions, they should be a good friend and keep the information to themselves.
Avoid digital drama.
Instant messaging, texting and posting comments online are all "in-the-moment" communication. This is part of the attraction for kids because it keeps them connected to friends when they can't be there in person. But learning to exit the conversation when things are getting rude or mean is crucial.
To do that, kids may have to sign off of instant messaging, not respond to a rude text or refrain from posting a comment on Facebook. Kids need to realize that no good will come from sending a nasty response or making a negative comment. It is better just to exit the conversation and if need be, discuss the situation in person.
Remember, teaching kids how to interact online is an ongoing process and not just a one-time conversation or listing off a set of rules. It requires parents to engage with their kids on a regular basis and use real-life situations as learning experiences.