Cyberbullying has been making headway as a leading contributor to the demise of our youth's mental health. Yet a recent survey conducted by Parent Tested Parent Approved showed that out of over 1200 respondents, 50 per cent of parents had not broached the topic of cyberbullying with their children. This is a shockingly high statistic.
According to a Statistics Canada Health Report, Canadians aged 15-24 years old had a higher rate of depression than any other group in the survey. "Negative social interactions" was a contributor to these statistics. So why then the low rate of conversations happening in Canadian homes?
Of those surveyed by Parent Tested Parent Approved, 38 per cent of respondents indicated they trusted their children to "act safely and appropriately when online" while 34 per cent of respondents indicated they felt their children would tell them if they were being cyberbullied.
One might wonder if parents are placing too much faith in their children to make the right choices innately. Parents find it necessary to teach children to look both ways before crossing a street, so shouldn't the dangers of cyberbullying be of equal concern? Teens, now more than ever, are developing relationships with their peers online and social media gives many a heightened sense of confidence to say things online that they wouldn't say in person. This has proven to be extremely dangerous.
As parents we need to do everything possible to equip our children with the tools they need to make good choices online.
The survey also revealed that a contributing factor to parents avoiding the topic of cyberbullying related directly to their limited level of tech savviness. More than 20 per cent of those surveyed indicated that they were unaware that tools existed in the marketplace to monitor their children's online activity. The same parents were unaware that free solutions existed online to educate their children on the inherent dangers of the internet.
Cyberbullying is a topic that must be addressed by parents of children who have access to the online world. It should be one discussed as a family on a regular basis and there are solutions that allow parents to help their children navigate the dangers. Two solutions that are free and easily accessible yet incredibly well designed include:
Google Interland, which aims to "Help kids be safe, confident explorers of the online world" through a series of games and challenges. The games help teach children how online predators might disguise themselves through their social profiles and how it's "cool to be kind" and treat others as you would like to be treated. I loved this particular tool so much I even put together a quick video outlining what it can teach your children.
Another free solution which is targeted at the entire family is Telus Wise. The free initiative by Telus aims at keeping families safe from cyberbullying and financial fraud. They have a section to help parents navigate social media and common terminology. They also offer great resources for children and teachers. This is a great initiative by a telco to make a difference in its community.
Tools exist to make parenting a bit easier when it comes to cyberbullying. As parents we need to do everything possible to equip our children with the tools they need to make good choices online. So next time they are heading out the door and you remind them to take their jacket and look both ways before crossing the street, maybe throw in a "be safe online" as a reminder that you are holding them accountable for their digital footprint.
Also on HuffPost: