Just because school is suspended and we are all staying at home doesn’t mean that bullying has stopped.  As we move the classroom and the school yard from schools to on-line, we move the bullies there as well.  Now more than ever, we need to monitor our children’s online activities.

Cyberbullying is defined by Stopbullying.gov as:

”Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.”

Oversight should not slow down as more and more conversations are moving to texting and social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Tik Tok.  Further, as parents, we must be concerned that our children are on new apps like Google Hangout and/or Zoom.  Some schools are delivering content over these platforms which means that our children could be recorded for the entire school day by a potential bully in their class.  Schools, parents and children need to learn that the technology has a block video screen and a mute button, so they can protect themselves from having potentially embarrassing content recorded.  Further, schools should understand the potential FERPA violations as students are constantly on video and can be recorded.

In Barbara Coloroso’s Book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander, she references “Teens and the Screen Study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying” conducted by McAfee, a subsidiary of Intel Security in 2014.  The top five recommendations that study offers about online forums and protecting children are as follows:

  1. Connect with your kids. Casually talk to them about the risks of all online connections and make sure the communication lines are open.
  2. Gain access. Parents should have passwords for their children’s social media accounts and passcodes to their children’s devices to have full access at any given moment.
  3. Learn their Technology. Stay one step ahead and take the time to research the various devices your kids use. You want to know more about their devices than they do.
  4. Get Social. Stay knowledgeable about the newest and latest social networks. [And I would add apps to the list.] You don’t have to create an account but it is important to understand how they work and if your kids are on them. (This would include new platforms like Google Hangout and Zoom)
  5. Reputation Management. Make sure your kids are aware anything they post online doesn’t have an expiration date.  I would also add to explain to your children that they can be filmed or recorded without their knowledge.

COVID 19 has changed our world.  By being proactive, honest and vigilant we can get through this together and safer both in the world and online.