Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, threaten, tease, harass or even target another person. It is one platform used by the 21st Century bully to inflict pain and humiliation upon another.
This type of bullying is conducted through emails, chat rooms, social network sites, text messages, cell phones and even websites.
There are countless ways a child can be bullied with this type of technology. And the number of ways is increasing, just as technology continues to advance.
Today, children are not able to seek refuge from a bully, as technology has vastly broadened the avenues of hurting someone. With the use of online technology and social networking sites, today’s bully can follow their targeted victim wherever the child may go.
Whether kids are in school, at the park, at the movie theater or at home, whenever bullied children have a cell phone or access to online technology, they can be bullied.
In essence, this form of bullying can be non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For the foster child, cyberbullying is yet another wound in an already damaged psyche.
Firstly, let's grasp the gravity of the situation. Over 90% of teenagers are online every day, and almost a quarter of them are online “almost constantly” according to Pew Research Center. This constant connectivity makes them particularly vulnerable to online threats.
Disturbingly, one study conducted by the University of New Hampshire reveals a whopping 79% of foster children have experienced cyberbullying, a percentage significantly higher than the 34% of non-foster children reported. No doubt, these numbers highlight the heightened risk foster children face online, hence the pressing need to ensure their online safety.
- get involved
- be aware of other forms of cyberbullying
- report any concerns
- check your foster child’s devices
- fail to create guidelines
- allow your foster child to have secret passwords
- be unprotected
- ignore the signs
Adopting Proactive Measures
Foster Open Conversations
Keeping our foster children safe online starts with having open and regular conversations about online safety. It is crucial to explain potential online dangers, but remember, using fear-based tactics is counterproductive.
Model Responsible Tech Use
Children learn from adults. Therefore, we must model good habits like using technology responsibly. For instance, avoid texting while driving and limit your screen time.
Explore the Digital World Together
Another helpful strategy involves exploring age-appropriate websites with the children. By doing so, you can guide them in understanding what is safe and what isn't safe to share online.
Implement Parental Controls
Parental controls are a valuable tool in protecting foster children from harmful content. Install monitoring and filtering software, set time limits for device use, and block inappropriate content.
Teach the Importance of Privacy
Take the time to go over privacy settings on social media platforms with them. Make sure they understand the dangers of sharing personal details like full names, locations, and school names publicly.
Know How to Report Issues
Additionally, ensure the kids know how to report cyberbullying, inappropriate interactions, or explicit content. Knowledge of these mechanisms can significantly contribute to their online safety.
Moreover, building resilience is essential. Foster self-esteem and empower kids to make smart online choices independently.
Building a Support System
Creating a robust support system is another vital part of keeping foster children safe online. Involve foster parents, case workers, therapists, and teachers in online safety efforts. This multidimensional approach will allow us to address the issue comprehensively.
Access to training on digital literacy and online child protection for caregivers is also invaluable. School cyber-safety programs and counseling can further reinforce positive online habits.
Lastly, remember that with compassionate guidance and age-appropriate monitoring, we can help foster kids stay safe online while still using technology effectively.
The most important thing you can do as a foster parent to protect your foster child from cyberbullies is to stay heavily involved in all aspects of the child’s school life.
Ask your foster child each day about school. Enquire about your child’s friends. Keep in regular contact with your foster child’s teachers and ask for updates on the child’s behavior and academics.
Become a volunteer at the school to become more involved in your child’s school life.
In today’s digital world, cyberbullies can easily create a website to mock, embarrass or humiliate others. Even the novice computer user can find easy-to-follow online directions in building a new website.
Many times, it is free or inexpensive to produce a website. Today’s schoolyard fighting has added technology. Children are now showing up at fights and videotaping them, usually through their smartphones.
Known as “happy slapping,” many of these fights are posted online for others to see. Whether they are posted online or on social network sites, such as Facebook, or on online short video sites or apps, such as Tiktok and YouTube, this form of cyberbullying is increasing in schools.
If you believe your foster child is a victim of cyberbullying while at school, immediately bring this to the attention of the school principal, administrators and school counselor. Also be sure to inform your foster child’s social worker of any problems. And keep all concerns in documented form.
Check your foster child’s online devices on a regular basis, looking for cyberbullying- based messages. These devices include your child’s cell phone, laptop, ipad, and any other online device.
Remember that you are not invading your child’s privacy. Instead, you are helping to keep the child and the child’s privacy safe.
Before your foster child gets online while living in your home, it is critical that you establish rules, guidelines and expectations in regards to online and computer use.
Post these rules and expectations near the computer as a reminder. Be consistent with these rules and take away privileges when necessary. Keep all online devices in areas where you can monitor use, so you can see what the child is being exposed to.
It is your duty and responsibility as a foster parent to keep your foster child safe from all dangers. This includes all online dangers, such as cyberbullying.
It is important that you know all of your foster child’s login and password information, and be sure to share these with the child’s caseworker. Remember that you are not invading the child’s privacy, you are ensuring that you are able to better protect your child from harm.
Set all privacy settings and controls to “private,” restricting who can view and access your child’s social network page. Install Google Alert onto your own device. This free service will alert you any time your foster child’s name appears online.
Watch for sudden mood swings that might suggest a child is being bullied, as well as signs of depression, isolation and separation from others.
If you see these signs, talk to the child and listen to his/her concerns. Encourage kids to express their feelings and allow them to share without judgement from you. Report all sudden mood swings to the child’s social worker and keep documentation of all incidents.
Extra Strategies to Keep Foster Children Safe Online
Apart from the approaches already mentioned, several other strategies can aid in maintaining online safety for foster children.
Promote Digital Literacy
Help foster children develop critical thinking skills to evaluate the credibility of online information and recognize potential online scams Amazon.
Encourage Positive Interactions
Promote a healthy online environment by fostering respectful communication and positive interactions Amazon.
Discuss Social Media Usage
Talk openly with foster children about their social media activity and the potential risks associated with it Children's Health Queensland.
Bridge the Digital Divide
On average, 80% of foster youth do not have access to the internet and a computer where they live, compared to only 10% of “average” teenagers and 21% of low-income teens iFoster. Providing access to technology and supporting foster children in developing digital skills can bridge this gap.
Collaboration with Schools and Organizations
Work with schools and community organizations to promote online safety education and resources for foster children Amazon.
Be a Positive Role Model
Lastly, as an adult, you should demonstrate responsible online behavior and set a good example for foster children to follow Child Welfare.
By implementing these positive strategies, we can provide foster children with a safe digital environment. Let's encourage open communication, provide guidance, and support foster children in developing the skills needed to navigate the online world safely.
Bullying has changed in the 21st Century with the marriage of technology and bullying. With the use of online technology and social networking sites, today’s bullies can follow their targeted victim wherever they may go.
The foster child who is cyberbullied can never escape, as the bullying can follow the child through technological means.
Cyberbullies can attack a foster child in a number of ways. These include publicly disclosing someone’s private email, information or messages; sending threatening or aggressive messages or rumors online; or excluding someone from buddy lists and blocking their emails.