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In today’s social media-fueled society, our children are at a greater risk of falling victim to bullying and cyberbullying. While bullies can easily hide behind their online personas, it’s also easier for them to carry on with their harassment without other people finding out. A recent study from the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 34% of students will experience cyberbullying during their lifetime. According to a report from JAMA Pediatrics, when kids and young adults are bullied or cyberbullied they face an increased chance of having suicidal thoughts and actions.

Tina Meier experienced this tragic combination in late 2006 when her 13-year-old daughter, Megan Meier, took her own life as the consequence of cyberbullying. It was later discovered that their adult neighbors, posing as a young boy on Myspace, were behind the torment that led to Megan taking her own life. In December, 2007, in memory of her daughter, Tina founded the Megan Meier Foundation, a non-profit organization, that creates awareness of and education about bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide.

Tina offers these useful tips to help parents keep their children safe:

Maintain open lines of communication Build a trusting relationship with your child so that if someone makes inappropriate comments, your child feels comfortable coming to you for help.

Familiarize yourself with technology Stay up to date on the risks your child could face on the internet. Talk openly and frequently with them about their social media activity.

Monitor activity Have access to your kid’s social media accounts and phone so that you can watch for alarming texts or communications.

Teach online safety

    • Help your child create a username that does not provide personal information. Ensure that her social media profile does not contain any information that could lead to your child’s identity or location.
    • Advise your kid never to share his password for any social media account with anyone, not even close friends. Make sure that his passwords are unique, complex, and updated regularly.
    • Instruct your child to log out of any program that requires a username or password when she finishes work to prevent others from gaining access to the information.
    • Teach your child not to open unsolicited email, click on any links, or download any attachments in emails from strangers.

Establish rules about technology use Remind your son or daughter that having a cell phone or tablet is a privilege, not a right, and may be taken away or restricted if rules are broken. Consider creating rules regarding your monitoring of kid’s accounts, time limits for usage of social media, text messaging and phone calls, and the content they post on social media sites.

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