This word did not even exist when I was a child. Now, as a parent, I have learned the meaning of cyberbullying the hard way. With 5 Computers, 4 IPads, 4 Cell Phones, and 3 iPod touches, all having access to the internet and the numerous social media outlets, it is next to impossible for this mother of four to monitor all internet activity at our house. Not to mention when others come over to our house with their own devices.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that just because I think my child is safe on certain online games, that isn’t always true. When my youngest was seven he wanted to play online games just like his siblings, so I put him on a game with sweet little puff balls and imaginary homes. The same game my two older ones had been on just two years before. He loved it! He talked about the little home he made and the home decor he bought with the points he got from winning the down hill ski jump. I, as a mom, felt a victory because I was keeping my seven year old away from the older audience online games. Cyberbullying was the farthest thing from my mind.
Occasionally, my son started having stomach pains in the morning before school. He was so convincing that I would rearrange my day and keep him home. Within an hour of the other children getting off to school, he seemed fine. In February of that school year we were called into school because of 7 absences and the teacher was concerned that our son’s reentry back to school got harder and harder every time. So we had our talk with our son and told him there would be no more missed days of school. With the option of missing school off the table, it all started to unravel.
The game that our son was playing with cute little puff balls had added message boards in the two years since our older kids had played it. What we unearthed on the message boards was heart breaking. At age seven my child was a victim of cyberbullying and he was living in silence about it. The messages he was getting from “friends” & “classmates” were so hurtful to my son that it was affecting every area of his life. With messages like “You are a loser!”, “Everyone hates you!”, and “I am going to tell everyone at school to hate you.”, I am not sure that a grown adult would want to get dressed for the day and head to work.
The sad thing is that knowing the kids involved in this particular incidence of cyberbullying, they all are sweet kids from fabulous families, and the kids actually really liked my son. So why does something like this happen? Well that is a bigger question, that we all should be trying to figure out, and I do think it varies on a case to case basis. Most people who know him would say that our youngest would probably be the last kid that would be a target of cyberbullying by classmates. And the fact that the cyberbullying was coming from sweet kids who actually like our son, goes to show that some form of monitoring for all kids is key to a safe and healthy digital life.
For now, I am interested in having an extra set of eyes on our internet accessible devices and being alerted before a similar event ever happens again. NQ Mobile offers a software solution called Family Guardian for smartphones. It is currently available for Android devices and provides a set of monitoring and alerting functions for parents without being obtrusive to the kids. As an Apple iOS family, we have not had the opportunity to utilize this solution yet, but for Android families, this could be just the solution you’re looking for. NQ is working on an iOS version that will hopefully be released soon.
Please share any tools to monitor and protect against cyberbullying on smartphones and internet accessible devices of any kind, such as NQ Mobile Family Guardian, in the comments section.
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