Protecting Your Children from Cyberbullying

We’ve all said or done things we’re not proud of, and for most of us those shameful moments took place when we were teenagers. The older we get, the wiser we get!

I feel fortunate to be old enough that I didn’t have to worry about my teenage years being publicized on one of the numerous social media sites – social media didn’t exist when I was in high school – and fortunate my children are still young enough that they aren’t on social media sites (yet!).

You may recall hearing about the 12-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide in September 2013 after more than a year and a half of constant cyberbullying.  This case is not unique; in fact, the statistics surrounding cyberbullying are staggering.  Forty-two percent of teenagers with tech access report being cyberbullied over the past year, but only two in five victims will tell their parents (OnlineCollege.org).

Social media sites have become a place for bullies to harass their peers.  As parents, it’s our duty to know our children’s online activities: what they’re posting, tweeting, texting, etc.  To ensure your children are safe online and reduce the risk of being on either side of cyberbullying, follow these simple guidelines courtesy of the Internet Child Safety website:

  1. Talk to your kids.  The best way to protect your kids online is to talk to them.  As soon as your child is using a computer, a cell phone, or any mobile device, it’s time to talk to them about appropriate online behavior and their personal safety.
  2. Educate yourself. Stay informed as a parent. You can find links to several Internet safety websites here.
  3. Protect your family and your computer. Anti-virus software can help protect your computer from being infected by a virus. Viruses cannot only damage your computer, but can put you at risk for Identity Theft as well.
  4. Monitor their social world. Let’s face it – our children are our greatest, most precious gift. As a parent, it is our job to protect them and keep them safe.  Children are social and will use the many social networking sites to reach out to friends. Be sure you are informed of any suspicious, inappropriate, or illegal activity that may be occurring online.
  5. Create an acceptable use policy. Visit this link for an example of an Online Safety Pledge. Be sure you and your child read this pledge and have it posted near your computer.

If you do find yourself named in a cyberbullying lawsuit, most homeowners policies have exclusionary language that would bar coverage for these incidents.  Even if personal injury is included on a standard homeowners policy, “intentional acts” are excluded.  That is why it is so important to establish some guidelines for your child’s online usage and talk to them about what is and isn’t appropriate when texting, tweeting, and posting.  It’s best to take precautions now and avoid a cyberbullying situation altogether!

I’d like to hear from you…what are some other tips or guidelines you have for your child’s online and cell phone activities?

The coverages described above are in the most general terms and are subject to the actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions, and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your insurance agent.

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