Washington: An expert has suggested that parents should be more involved in their children’s online activities and know what to do if their child is being bullied in cyberspace or engaging in sexting.
In responding to cyber bullying and sexting issues, Bridget Roberts-Pittman, Indiana State University assistant professor of counseling, said that parents need to be aware of major changes in a child’s behavior.
"Behavior change is a part of adolescence. However, a significant change could mean the child is dealing with a serious issue such a cyber bullying," she said.
"Parents should be aware of signs such as anxiety, depression, their child not wanting to attend school or making a drastic decision such as quitting a sports team."
Parents also need to be aware of what their children are doing in cyberspace. While 93 percent of parents said they knew what their children were doing online, 52 percent of children said they do not tell their parents what they do online, according to Roberts-Pittman.
"Parents have a right to check their child’s phone and Internet use," she said and suggested using software packages such as Spectorsoft or I Am Big Brother.
"Parents need to talk to their children about cyber bullying and sexting. Children today are so saturated with technology that they might not even recognize the behavior as a serious problem."
Roberts-Pittman said parents could take steps to help their children if they are involved in sexting or cyber bullying. The first is to listen.
"It is critical that children feel heard and understood," she said. "Keeping an open dialogue about issues such as peers is not easy, but very important for children to know that they can talk to their parents."
She said children often do not talk to their parents because they are afraid of their parents revoking their cell phone or computer privileges. They also don``t believe their parents have the technical knowledge to understand. They also fear their parents will say "I told you so."
A second step for parents to help their children is to know they have options, especially in responding to cyber bullying.
"They can and should talk to the police about harassment," Roberts-Pittman said. "If the information is posted on a social networking site, they can contact the site to have the information removed."
The third step is to save all of the texts and emails sent to the child.
"It seems to be the parent’s natural tendency to encourage their child to ignore the information and delete but that is the opposite of what we want children to do," she said. "Information can be tracked and traced."
Also, parents of the child being bullied may want to address the cyberbullying with the parents of the child committing the bullying.
"I only encourage parents to do this if they have the saved information to share with the other parents," she said.
As a fourth step, Roberts-Pittman said parents should share the information with school personnel.
"The collaboration between parents and school officials is critical to address the cyber bullying and sexting," she said.