For the month of October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, we are posting interviews we conducted with some of the most influential people in the cyberbullying prevention space. The next in the series involves Ruth Carter, Licensed Arizona Attorney.
uKK: What is the nature of your expertise on cyberbullying?
RC: One of my passions and areas of practice is social media law, which includes cyberbullying.
I wrote the book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed which includes topics related to cyberbullying prevention.
I’ve also experienced cyberbullying as a law student.
uKK: What do you believe is the number one thing that can be done to draw attention to and prevent this trend?
RC: I think the best thing adults can do is let go of any denial that it’s not happen to their children (being bullies or being bullied) or in their schools. Just like kids target playground scapegoats in person, they’re also doing it online and via text messages.
uKK: What online trends do you believe contribute to this trend, and how should those issues be addressed?
RC: Cyberbullying allows someone to pick on, harass, and belittle another without having to look them in the eye. They don’t have to see the extent of the damage they’re causing. One way to address this problem is to teach empathy to young people early so they understand that their actions impact others emotionally and they can do significant harm with their words.
uKK: What steps can parents take to educate themselves and become better informed about potential incidents?
RC: I tell parents that they should know where their kids are active on social media. Wherever their kids have an account, they should have an account too and connected so the parent can see everything their kids are doing and saying online. Parents should have their kids’ cell phone passwords and be able to take their phone at any time to review their text messages, emails, and photos.
They should have high expectations for their children regarding their online behavior and interactions and confront them when they misbehave.
Kids should be taught early and often that they have no idea when a post will take on a life of its own and go places they can’t control. They also need to understand that every post is permanent and can come back to bite them.
uKK: What is the best thing for a parent to do when finding out their child has been cyberbullied?
RC: Support them. Empower them to stand up for themselves and cut off the bullies access to them. Make sure they have at least one place in their life where they feel supported and cared about. Parents should consider getting the other child’s parents involved, possibly the service being used to send the harassing messages, and the school if it’s affecting the targeted child’s school experience.
uKK: What are some of the best resources parents can turn to in these situations?
RC: There are lots of organizations - online and offline - that provide services to assist in these situations. If necessary, seek out a therapist to help your child.
uKK: What is the best thing for a parent to do when finding out their child has cyberbullied someone else?
RC: Don’t ignore it. Children aren’t born being mean - it’s learned behavior. Try to determine what’s driving them to behave this way and address the deeper issue. Set firm expectations regarding their online behaviors and monitor them.
uKK: What is the best thing for a child/teenager to do if he has been cyberbullied?
RC: Cut off the bullies’ access to you via the settings on your social media profiles. Report them to the service if necessary. Delete your accounts if necessary and start over - possibly with an alter ego if it’s allowed.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find someone you trust that you can talk to.
uKK: Any additional resources you want to provide?
RC: I’ve written several blog posts for my personal blog, my law firm’s blog, and others about cyberbullying:
Many parents are still in the dark about cyberbullying. Become informed with our eBook: “10 Essential Things Every Parent Should Know about Cyberbullying.” Download your free copy today!