As a community, it is most advantageous for us to engage and educate each other on the importance of cybersecurity as well as the impact each one of us can make. The Internet has become an indispensable tool in our everyday life; therefore, it is paramount that we apply the concept of "citizenship" to the online world.

You have probably already heard the terms, cybercitizenship, cyber ethics, and netiquette, which refer to responsible cyber social behavior. These terms refer to what people should or shouldn’t do online when no one else is looking. As more and more children surf the web, parents must be vigilant and teach their children about cyber ethics―especially since poor e-habits can start at an early age.

There’s an adage that reminds us of the same concept with Internet usage: "True character is what you do when no one else is watching." Online, one can feel invisible yet capable of doing things one normally wouldn't do in person or in public. Although technological advances have somewhat improved our lives, we’re also experiencing the downside of it. For instance, children armed with computers can be dangerous and cause serious damage, whether they are being mischievous or trying to intentionally commit cybercrimes. Staying in touch with friends and making new ones has taken on a whole new realm. While most interactions are positive, different types of social media have given our youth a new – and powerful – platform where they communicate, gossip, spread rumors and sometimes bully their peers. There is no doubt that cyber bullying is traumatic. It differs from traditional face-to-face bullying in that it is relentless and public and at times, anonymous.

As a mom and as a school principal, I urge you to teach your tween (preadolescent) or your teen:

  • To NEVER post or say anything on the Internet that they wouldn’t want the whole world – including you – to read.
  • To NEVER reply to harassing messages. They should talk to an adult about it. If the bullying includes physical threats, tell the police as well.
Three things you can do as parents to develop “CyberWise” kids:

KEEP CURRENT with the technology and web services your child uses.
  • “Friend” them on Facebook and pay attention to who their friends are.
  • Familiarize yourself with the reporting feature and privacy functions.
  • Set an example of flagging inappropriate content or behavior when you see it―kids can say terrible and hurtful things because they feel emboldened by the computer screen standing between them and the person they are hurting. Kids who wouldn’t be cruel face-to-face and don’t get to see the consequences of their actions may feel justified saying hurtful things online. Ask.fm, an anonymous online social media site, is often involved in cyber bullying incidents —from casual cruelty to threatening messages. Sites that allow anonymity reduce inhibitions.
  • Supervise your kids’ activities online, especially on sites such as these. At minimum, you should have your child’s username/ password and sit down with them once in a while to monitor what’s happening online. If your child is involved in a bullying incident on Ask.fm, tell them not to respond. The best option is to delete the app and account. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Ask.fm does not have any formal reporting mechanism, so you cannot get the perpetrator blocked by the site. If you choose to allow your child to use Ask.fm, show them how to use the privacy tab in their settings to block anonymous posts, so that all comments are linked to the names of account holders.
  • Whether you allow your child to use the site or not, have a conversation with them about civility online, flaming, and how anonymity might change how people act.
KEEP COMMUNICATING.
  • Talk to your child about reaching out to an adult at the first sign of a threat.
  • Only 8 percent of teens who have been bullied online have told their parents, so don’t take for granted that your child will tell you.
  • Have a conversation today about when to signal poor cyber behavior.
  • Show them how to use the reporting mechanisms (flagging/tagging) provided on the sites they use and encourage your child to use them when they see any bad behavior.
  • Explain that everyone benefits when all users are responsible. Some advice from an experienced administrator…”Chill!” Kids refuse to confide in their parents because they fear that once they find out about the cyber bullying, they will take away their Internet privilege or cell phone.
  • Assure them that action must be taken when faced with cyber bullying and that not reporting it is synonymous to approving it.
KEEP CHECKING your child’s internet and cell phone activity.
  • Supervise your kids’ activities online. YOU need to monitor your child’s Facebook page, messaging and social profile. At minimum, you should have their username/ password and sit down with them once in a while to monitor what’s happening online.
  • Watch for signs of risk; such as drug/alcohol use, self-harm (cutting, mutilation) or psychological or physical threats and be ready to get help on their behalf.
Your child’s school can help educate your child about social media. Most schools do work on the social aspect that touches school life but parents need to be partners on this road. Together with the school, you will be the village that will raise your child to have a future. Together, as a community, we can make our CyberWorld, a safer one for our children.