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October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, but in the 24/7 age of texting and social media, sharing awareness and prevention tips with children year-round is a must-do for parents.

From texting to Snapchat and Instagram, the number of platforms where children can experience cyberbullying is on the rise, but it can be increasingly difficult for parents to identify when there’s a problem.  Statistics indicate that more than half of young people have experienced cyberbullying, but when they are bullied, they don’t always confide in their parents. Just one in six parents reports being aware of the scope and intensity of cyberbullying, according to NoBullying.com.

If children are accessing the Internet, parents need to equip them with “netiquette.”  Here are some “netiquette” tips we share with families at Reach Cyber Charter School:

Educate: Provide your child with knowledge about bullying and cyber-bullying. 

  • Offer some examples of things that a bully might do or say. This will help your student better understand when to “flag” a problem.
  • Let your student know that he or she can always come to you for help.
  • Before your child becomes active on social media, teach him or her how to be respectful online. They shouldn’t post words or photos that they wouldn’t share in person.
  • Remind your child that it is always important to be kind to others.

 Monitor and Recognize: If you suspect your child is being bullied, look for warning signs. If you detect a problem, talk to your student’s school counselor or principal for suggestions and guidance to resolve it.

  • Social Media – Keep a close eye on your child’s social media pages. Take an occasional look at his/her social media pages just to make sure the conversation is positive.
  • Behavior Changes – Pay close attention to how your child behaves after school. Though the effects of bullying are long-lasting, they should be most notable right after the incident. This includes online activities like social media or when they receive a text, Snapchat or email.
  • Mood Changes or Trouble Sleeping – While mood changes can be a normal part of adolescence, it’s important to note if your child suddenly becomes sad, depressed, angry or agitated. Subsequently, these issues can trigger sleep problems.
  •  Declining Grades – A child’s changing attitude toward school can be one of the first signs of bullying. Some children who experience bullying may also see a decline in their grades.
  • Socialization – Parents should pay close attention if an overall pattern starts to emerge, like if your child becomes withdrawn and avoids social situations.

Take Action: Sometimes encountering a bully or cyberbully is inevitable, but there are safe ways to respond.

  • Make sure children know to tell an adult. 
  • Document all the facts. 
  • Report the bully or cyberbully. Many social media platforms allow you to report negative posts. State laws require schools to have proper bullying prevention and response plans in place, so it is important that your child’s school be contacted if bullying creates a disruptive school environment.

— Jane Swan is the principal of Reach Cyber Charter School, a Pennsylvania’s full-time, tuition-free, public cyber charter school serving more than 1,900 students grades K-11. 

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Read or Share this story: https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/10/23/oped-tips-preventing-cyber-bullying/783494001/