Parenting the Online Generation: What About Cyberbullying?

— Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Apr 6, 2011

Schoolyard bullying has been the subject of much media and academic work; however, a new form of bullying is emerging: cyberbullying.  This form of aggression occurs when one or more individuals target another using some (or multiple) forms of Communication and Information Technology (CIT), including email, instant messaging (IM), text messaging on a cell phone, social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Nexopia, MySpace) or even through the development of a website (Kowalski & Limber, 2007).  Some examples of cyberbullying include spreading rumors and gossip via instant messaging, writing mean messages on social Networking sites and blogs, or even using a cell phone to photograph or film others changing in a dressing room and posting the footage on the Internet.  Cyberbullying is of growing concern for parents and educators alike.  In the past, victims of bullying could find safety at home, however, with cyberbullying, victims are vulnerable in their own bedroom.  The question that this paper addresses is what parents can do to help keep their children safe online.

Keep Your Kids Safe With Open Communication

Many recent articles and books have discussed the ways in which parents can effectively monitor and control their children’s Internet use, with suggestions ranging from checking the computer’s online history or installing Net Nanny or other monitoring software to surrupticiously read their children’s Instant Messages and emails.  While this kind of monitoring may be effective (and indeed necessary) for younger children, as a child becomes a teenager this kind of intrusive monitoring may damage the communication and trust between the parent and the child.  By the end of developmental period of adolescence, individuals are expected to be independent, self-sufficient adults (Arnett, 2006).  For this to happen, adolescents need to be given increased responsibility, the power to make decisions for themselves, and be shown increased levels of trust.  Indeed, recent research by Stattin and Kerr (2000) has clearly shown that it is not a parent’s attempt to control or monitor their adolescent’s behavior that predicts reduced levels of antisocial and deviant behaviors, rather, it is the adolescent’s willingness to disclose information to his or her parents that is predictive.  Said differently, trust and open lines of communication are the best ways to ensure developmental wellbeing for adolescents.

What We Looked At In This Study

The current study was undertaken to examine how parental monitoring of online activities are related to cyberbullying outcomes.  Specifically, we examined whether parental regulations (i.e. whether teens need to gain permission from parents before posting anything online), parental control (i.e. setting limits on Internet use), or child disclosure (i.e. how much teens share with their parents about their experiences online) was associated with adolescent’s engagement in Internet bullying.

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