Technology and social media play an ever present part in teen's lives, making them vulnerable to cyberbullying. However, there are a few things that teens can do to reduce their chances of getting bullied.
Detective Sgt Thomas Rich is a certified NJ police officer, creator and founder of Always Connected, a program developed to inform law enforcement, educators, administration, youth workers, youth groups, parents and children of all ages how to utilize technology in a positive way. He also contributed to the development of STOPit, an innovative iPhone and Android app, which is helping students, schools and parents stand up against cyberbullying by allowing students to report cyberbullying anonymously to school officials and local authorities.
Here are Sergeant Rich's ten tips for teens to prevent cyberbullying:
- Educate yourself: To prevent cyberbullying from occurring you must understand exactly what it is. Research what constitutes cyberbullying, how and where it occurs, and talk with your friends about what they are seeing and experiencing.
- Protect your password: Safeguard your password and all private information from inquisitive peers. You don't want to give bullies the opportunity to post false/private/embarrassing information or pictures on your social media pages or send them to the whole school through email.
- Keep photos PG: Before sending a racy photo of yourself to a peer or posting it online, consider if this is something you would want others to see, especially your family. Bullies can use this picture as ammunition to make your life miserable.
- Pause before you post: Don't post anything that can compromise your reputation. People will judge you based on how you appear to them online, and like point #3, bullies can use it as fuel.
- Raise awareness: Bring awareness to cyberbullying whether it be through a movement, a club an event or campaign. Knowledge is power.
- Set up privacy controls: Restrict who can see your online profiles to only trusted friends.
- "Google" yourself: Every once in a while search our name on all major search engines and see if any personal information or photos come up. If you find something that can be used by cyberbullies to target you, take action and have it removed.
- Never open messages from people you don't know: Delete all messages without reading them from people you don't know, as they could contain viruses and infect your computer. The same goes for messages from known bullies. It is best to not engage and ignore them.
- Don't be a cyberbully: remember the phrase your parents instilled in you as a kid "treat other as you want to be treated". If you are mean to others online, it reinforces the idea that that kind of behavior is acceptable.
- Log out of your accounts on public computers: Similar to not sharing your passwords, don't give anyone the slightest chance to pose as you or to share false information. Also, by staying logged in, you run the risk of the bully changing your password and locking you out for a period of time.