Cyberbullying on the rise: How to keep your students safe as they head back to school

BTS: Cyberbullying

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - As students head into the new school year, experts say conversations about cyberbullying should be starting at home right now.

Experts are reminding parents times have changed. The bullying issues many parents may have dealt with when they were in school have evolved.

Because anyone can hide behind a screen, bullying is easier than ever, and it can happen anywhere and anytime. Pew Research Center reports cyberbullying affects nearly 60% of children and teens today in the U.S.

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows among the 20% of 12 to 18-year-old’s who reported bullying, 15% say it happened online or by text. That’s a 3.5% increase from the year before.

Findings also show three times as many girls report being harassed online or by text message than boys. Experts say parents should be very aware of what’s happening on their kid’s phones, gaming systems and computers at all times.

“You have to talk to the kids about cyberbullying and digital citizenship and ask your kids open-ended questions. It’s also important to be age appropriate. You do need to talk to kindergartner about it and you do need to talk to your elementary kids, but you’re going to have a different conversation with those than you are high school students,” said Mike Jolley, director of K-12 safety at Securly.

Jolley says the emotional effects of bullying can be hard for kids to overcome. Experts say if you find your child is dealing with a cyberbully, usually it's best to tell them not to engage. Sometimes though, your child may need to face it by reaching out to the bully. The key is that the child is the one communicating with a parent or guardian by their side.

Jolley says it’s important to establish strong communication with your child and set screen time limits before any issues arise.

“Parents should be looking at your children’s posts. If they have apps and things, you can have access to those. You should know their account. You should go not as a spy, because you don’t trust your kid. But because you’re a parent and you’re teaching them, just like you would teach them how to drive a car,” said Jolley.

He urges that parents need to not only keep a close eye on their child's activity on their devices, but also their behavior at home and in the classroom.

Experts say many cases of cyberbullying go unreported, so it’s important to teach your children to report any instances of bullying.

In Horry County, every school in the district has a bullying plan in place. There’s also a tip line where students and parents can report any form of bullying.

For more information on how to report a bullying incident, click here.

For more information on digital awareness for parents, click here.

Copyright 2019 WMBF. All rights reserved.