School's back in session after what seemed like a Winter break eternity! With the kids back in school, that may mean more drama back in their lives, but it doesn't have to. You've seen the headlines, watched the stories - on this site and on our news programming - "Teen Commits Suicide Because of Cyberbullying!" There is obviously much more going on in that person's life than just that online bullying which played a part in an event as sad and tragic as that but the list below will help you and your tweens and teens at least avoid the online bullying which seeming has so many of our young in a tailspin. So, please take the time to, digest the info and then present it to your children! It will help them keep the drama to a minimum and finish the school year strong!
1. When using school computers, or spending the night at a pal's house over the weekend, and checking your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts on their computer(s) always make sure that you clear the cookies and cache. This is important because, unfortunately, as teens friends aren't always forever. Today's BFF could be tomorrow's "frenemy" and a computer where you've previously logged in could hold the key to that frenemy logging into your account, pretending to be you and posting some pretty nasty status updates.
For Firefox: Access the "Tools" menu at the top of the browser window and choose "Clear Recent History." Once you make that choice, a window like the one below will come up and you just pick the time range to clear. Make sure you check: Cookies, Cache and Active Logins then choose "Clear Now."
For Google Chrome: Click the wrench icon on the browser toolbar, select "Tools," select "Clear Browsing Data," and select the time range that you'll be clearing everything for. Next, be sure to select: empty the cache, delete cookies and other site and plug-in data, and clear saved passwords. After having done this, click on "Clear Browsing Data."
For Internet Explorer: Click Tools (or press Alt on your keyboard to show menus), select "Delete Browsing History," select the checkbox next to "Temporary Internet Files" and "Cookies," then click "Delete." It can take a bit for the cache and cookies to be deleted so be patient and then, once the files have been deleted, click "Okay." **This action will make it so that the computer's owner will have to enter their passwords again on sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. so you definitely want to let them know you're going to do this before you do.**
2. Password protect that phone… AND DON'T TELL ANYONE THE PASSWORD! Children who leave their phones laying around or lose them increase the potential that their personal business will become school property. Just like above, you also run the risk of someone else being able to log into your child's social networking accounts through their phone as well.
3. Ignore foolishness, or in geek terms, "Don't feed the trolls." I know that it is so very tempting to find someone speaking ill of your child on some website (like Formspring for instance) and for your child to defend themselves or retaliate by speaking ill of the person in return but that only fans the flames of internet "flame wars." "Flaming" is the act of talking trash about someone online, also known as "slamming." The more time you give to those who talk trash online the larger the drama grows! It's like adding oxygen to a fire, or conversely starving a fire of it. If your child really wants to speak to the negativity, a simple answer to the flaming, once and then leave it alone will suffice. For example, someone online is accusing your daughter of sleeping with some guy and it isn't true. Unfortunately, this person posted somewhere that both party's friends frequent such as an online forum or Facebook Group, a simple, "This isn't true at all. And that's the last I'm going to speak on it." Then it's up to your child to fight the temptation of not going back to see what others post. Seeing people speak badly about you makes it really hard to stay out of the muck and not feed the trolls.
4. Words are like bullets… once released you can't pull them back in and both can do irreparable damage to people and friendships. Especially at younger ages, our children need to understand that no conversation had digitally is private. For example, your son or daughter is text messaging a pal and trash talking a classmate, it's really easy for the person on the other end to forward those text messages or to copy and past the logs of an instant messaging conversation into another instant messaging conversation and share. The bigger picture is that our children really need to know that anything done online or via mobile communications tech should be considered public. Period.
5. Does your son or daughter want to stay out of the gossip spotlight? NO SEXTING! No bikini pics! No suggestive web cam behavior! No pics sent to anyone of the opposite sex where they aren't fully clothed. Even an innocent (and I'd very reluctantly call any pic "innocent" that is sent in a bikini) bikini picture sent to a boy could get your daughter labeled "easy," and very quickly she becomes known as a "hoe." Even worse when sext messages get out in the wild, and THEY WILL GET OUT IN THE WILD. Whenever I speak to groups of girls apart from boys, I make sure to let them know that at that age, their suggestive pictures WILL ALWAYS BE SHOWN TO HIS FRIENDS. You send a boy a bikini, semi-nude or nude picture of yourself, I DON'T CARE how much he promises that he won't show it to anyone else… he will. You can count on that as sure as the sun sets. Those pictures become trophies and for t/w/een boys, trophies are meant to be shared and boasted about. That's just how it is.