Adult Cyberbullying & Healthy Internet Habits

Many of us are spending more time on the internet now. However, not every experience online is a good one! This week’s topic is cyberbullying (harmful interactions over the internet).

In our very first week of this livestream we talked about limiting internet use and I’ve mentioned limiting news consumption a number of times over the past few weeks. Since I know that a lot of us are using the internet and social media more than ever, I thought another important internet topic to bring up is cyberbullying. I talk about cyberbullying in my school presentations often, but adults can experience cyberbullying as well. With emotions running high, false information being spread, etc. I see angry internet interactions happening quite often now. The main message for young cyberbullying victims is to report it, and talk to a trusted adult about it. But what do you do when you ARE an adult, and you’re going through the same thing? I found a couple of articles with advice about this:

From Source 1:

Lead by example

Sue Scheff in an article on Psychology Today says: “Many of us have been targets of cyberbullying, or maybe we have found ourselves posting a snarky comment that we have regretted” (Source 1). As I tell youth in my internet safety presentations, it’s a lot easier to say mean things to someone online than it is in person. When we’re behind a screen, potentially anonymous, we can find ourselves texting or typing out anger, frustration, and even hate quite easily. To quote Scheff again, “the most disturbing trend among all this hateful online behavior is that it's usually the grown-ups that are throwing the cyber-trash. The same people that should be responsible, respectful and know to lead with kindness” (Source 1).

Think before you post! In a study done with teens, where they were given one chance to rethink sending a cyberbullying message, 96% of teens chose NOT to send the message. This shows the power that taking a moment can have on our actions. Read over your message, step away for 5-10 minutes, or even take the night to sleep on it. It’s more than likely that you will choose not to send it, which helps both you and the intended recipient. “Although we can't control how others behave online, we can take steps to improve our own experiences and behavior and how we response to the negativity” (Source 1).

Be an upstander. If you receive a mean message, witness a hurtful comment or see someone struggling with digital harassment—do something.

· Report and flag the abusive content to the social platform.

· Never forward, engage or 'like' malicious content.

· Reach out to someone hurting online. (Private message, text, email. Any form of communication so they know they're not alone).

Limit what you share online. Not everything we do offline needs to be documented on our social networks.

· Emotional sharing. If you're arguing with your partner or having a meltdown with your teen, social media is not the place to vent your personal laundry. What may start out as helpful advice can quickly turn hurtful adversaries. Cyber-friends are not cyber-therapists.

· Inappropriate sharing. Many adults send and receive consensual sexts; however, know that what goes online could potentially be publicly shared at some point. IF YOU’RE UNDER 18, IT IS ILLEGAL AND IS ACTIVITY THAT SHOULD NOT BE ENGAGED IN.

· Know your audience. Before your share your content, who is your audience (family, friends, work colleagues, cyber-acquaintances)? Be aware of where you're posting and prepared for the consequences. (If you post things that your employer could see, you could be held to a workplace code of conduct and find yourself facing unintended consequences).

Know when it's time to take a digital break. Like many celebrities have learned, it's okay to check-out of social media. Taking more time to enjoy people face-to-face will actually help you have more empathy for those online.

From Source 2:

Document the attacks. Take screenshots of all the evidence. You might want to just push delete, delete, delete. But if things escalate, you’ll need to have some documentation. Print it out, keep it in an online folder, put it on a thumb drive, download any videos to an external hard drive—but do save it.

Block the offenders. Blocking functionality is available on social media platforms, as well as phone calls, texts, apps, and email. Once you block them, be sure you have a friend monitoring them for you.

Report the offenders. Review the website’s or platform’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Code of Conduct, to identify what actions are considered violations, then politely ask the service to remove offensive comments, in accordance with its guidelines, and to ban the violator from the platform.

Try to identify the attackers. Are you being harassed or stalked, and it’s escalating? You may wish to will need to file a crime report with law enforcement.

Cut the criminals off. If you ever find yourself being extorted for money over explicit materials, treat it like you would any other form of blackmail. Report it to the appropriate authorities.

From Source 3:

Ignore the bully. This is so tough but imperative. Do not respond to minor teasing or name calling. Sometimes bullies are encouraged by seeing a reaction. Don’t give them the satisfaction. (Source 3).

From Source 4:

Change your privacy settings on your social media accounts in order to limit what other people can see, this will stop people gaining access to your personal information and anything they could use as “ammunition” for their online abuse (online bullies often take content from their victim’s social media accounts and ‘re-purpose’ it in a different context).

Only add people you know! Friends, family or people that you trust. If somebody requests to be your friend online and you don’t recognize them and they have no mutual connection to you, it is worth considering not accepting their friend request.

From Source 5:

Even if you haven’t experienced cyberbullying, you can look into promoting healthy internet habits for you and your family. We all spend a lot of time on the internet, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. “Healthy habits can lay the foundation for a better, safer online experience for your children and your family” (Source 5).

Talk About It

Talk with your kids about the Internet, and encourage them to see it as a shared, open environment in which they have social responsibilities just as they would in any physical environment.

Keep in mind:

Enjoy the Internet along with your children and discuss the ways in which it brings value into your lives.

Stay open to your kids' questions and encourage them to share their Internet experiences with you without fear of punishment about what they read, see or experience.

Discuss how to safely interact online with others, why kids should stay away from certain types of content and individuals, and that Internet rules are there to protect kids.

Teach children to trust their instincts, and to come to you if something or someone online makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind them that they are not in trouble for bringing issues to your attention.

As kids get older, keep family communications about the Internet as open and positive as you can. Talk with your kids about their online friends and activities just as you would talk about other friends and activities.

Set Rules for Internet Use

Lay out rules for Internet use, setting clear expectations for your kids' online habits. A good set of rules should include things like the amount of time kids are allowed to be online, what types of content are appropriate and who it’s okay to chat with as well as proper online conduct and good Internet citizenship.

Keep in mind:

The most successful rules are those that are created collaboratively. Work with your kids to draw up an online family safety contract that the whole family can agree to and sign.

Discuss the rules frequently. Remind them that the rules are in place to protect your family, and that strictly maintaining privacy online can lower the risk of being targeted by online predators.

Tell kids that following the rules and keeping communications open will allow them to gain freedoms as they get older. Let them know that you will re-evaluate the rules over time.

Balance Time Online

Maintaining a balance between entertainment and other activities in kids' lives can be a serious challenge. Modelling a healthy balance between your online and offline activities is a great way to encourage kids to do the same.

Keep in mind:

Enforce rules about the amount of time your kids may spend online and the hours they are allowed to go online. Help your kids develop self-control, discipline and accountability regarding Internet use.

Encourage and support their participation in other activities — particularly physical pastimes with other children. If your child is reluctant, look for offline activities that tap into the same interests your kids pursue online.

Distinguish Between Fact and Opinion

Let's face it: There's a lot of content on the Internet that isn't helpful or reliable. While more online fact checking happens today than previously, the ability of nearly anyone to offer opinions or build Web sites can make the Internet a confusing place for young people.

Teach your kids how the Internet works and encourage critical thinking. Train them to use a variety of online resources and to always check, question and verify what they see online. Ultimately, these skills can help your kids avoid bad situations and individuals — such as online predators — that may seek to mislead or trick Internet users.

Keep Personal Facts Private

Online privacy is vital to your family's safety. Ensuring that your kids communicate online only with people known to them and your family can help limit their contact with unwanted elements. Still, as kids grow older, they are bound to make new friends online.

Keep in mind:

Ensure that children keep facts such as their real name, age, gender and location private. Discuss how details in photographs can reveal more information to would-be predators than your child intends.

Ensure that your kids understand the risks involved in making private or personal information public online. Keep an open dialogue about the people they come into contact with online. Discuss and evaluate online relationships as you would any other relationships in your child’s life.

Although these tips emphasize teaching your children these habits, these are all habits that we should learn as adults and use in our everyday internet use. Just because we’ve gotten older doesn’t mean we get to stop following these rules! Maintaining healthy internet habits into adulthood will help with setting boundaries and ensuring that the necessary relationship we have with the internet is a healthy one (we do love healthy relationships around here).

To close, what am I grateful for this week? I'm grateful (and excited) to announce that tomorrow is the beginning of Sexual Violence Awareness Month! Saffron has lots of content that will be posted in the following weeks, including videos, podcasts and even some story reading. I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to bring awareness to such an important issue this May. :)







*Note: some changes have been made in the wording from the original sources for clarity.

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