25
Jan 19

Everything Parents Need to Know About Their Kids and Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

According to government statistics, up to 21 percent of kids aged 12 to 18 report being cyberbullied — and that’s just the numbers for reported cases. The hard truth is that many kids, some even younger than 12, are cyberbullied and either don’t recognize it or don’t say anything to anyone in a position of authority. It’s your job as parents to be on the lookout for signs your child is a victim of cyberbullying and to know what to do if you find out they are. Here’s a primer.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Every parent is familiar with the bullying of their day and age — playground scuffles, fights at the Friday night football game, cold shoulders at the school dance. However, cyberbullying is a newer and extremely potent form of bullying. One basic definition of cyberbullying is any use of digital means to harass, intimidate, scare, ridicule, or ostracize. Cyberbullying can happen via text, websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or any form of digital communication.

 

How to Know If Your Child Is the Victim of a Cyberbully

Although the easiest way to know if your child is being cyberbullied is them telling you directly, that’s unlikely to happen. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, however. That’s step one.

Beyond that, it’s up to you to spot the warning signs. Some include:

  • They either stop using the computer/phone or begin to do so only in private. A rapid increase in social media/internet use can also be a warning sign.
  • They get jumpy or defensive when they get a text or message.
  • They become withdrawn.
  • They are hanging out with friends and at social engagements less and less.
  • They appear angry, sad, depressed, or agitated.

If you suspect something is going on, you may want to gain access to their texts, online messages, social media accounts, and any other online platforms (gaming, video, etc.). While you should always have access to your younger children’s digital life, asking for access for an older child (early teen) may feel like an invasion of their privacy. It’s a delicate subject, for sure, but it may be necessary if cyberbullying is occurring. There are also ways to monitor their online activity without actually seizing control of it.

 

Addressing It

How you approach your own child is personal, but you should be gentle no matter what. Let them know you suspect it and that they can tell you anything without fear.

You should contact your child’s school (if the bully is a classmate) or coach/instructor (if the bully knows your child from an extracurricular activity). You should not contact the bully’s parents directly, as this almost always leads to defensiveness and confrontation. If the bullying is very serious and gets to the point where you fear for your child’s safety or mental health, you may need to hire a digital forensic expert to help you keep records of the bullying to be used as proof should any legal action need to be undertaken. There are many trusted options available for this service, such as SecureForensics.

 

How to Prevent Additional Cyberbullying

Addressing the source of the bullying is certainly an effective first step, but you must make more decisions as a parent to protect your child from further abuse. You may need to limit or at least closely monitor online time. Get to know your child’s online friends. For instance, require your child to report any bullying to you (let them know that this is not akin to “tattling”).

Keep in mind that you must teach your child that retribution is not the answer under any circumstances. Teach them they can use privacy settings to their advantage and that they should simply block or ignore online nuisances if they persist.

Cyberbullying is a very serious problem — one that can lead to tragic consequences. Some children have been cyberbullied to the point of taking their own life, so it’s certainly not an issue to take lightly or simply wait for it to pass. The good news is that cyberbullying can be addressed, stopped, and prevented, and kids can overcome its effects with guidance and counseling. However, remember this: Recognizing and, in turn, dealing with cyberbullying, like many things, starts with you — the parent. Be observant, be compassionate, and take action.

Photo by Yura Fresh on Unsplash

 

 

 


14
Jan 19

What are My Rights With Sole Custody?

Separation with children results in either joint or sole custody. With joint custody, both parents are responsible for their child’s well-being and care, and they need to make decisions together. With sole custody, one parent is responsible for making major decisions for the child regardless of what the other parent thinks.

The court will decide if joint or sole custody is best for the child, and in most cases, they do prefer to have both parents working together. However, certain circumstances require the court to give sole custody to one parent, and that parent then has the following rights.

Visitation Rights

Unfortunately, even if you have sole custody, it is not up to you what the visitation rights and schedule are for your child. During your divorce or separation, this schedule is determined by the courts, and it is up to both parties to fulfill this schedule to the best of your abilities. In fact, should one of you deter from the court-appointed visitation schedule, it could leave you susceptible to being arrested. While you can plead your case to the court, know that sole custody does not give you the power to keep your ex away from your child.

Location

With sole custody, you do have the ability to decide where the child will live. Depending on your relationship with your ex and your visitation schedule, it may be in the best interest to keep the child in the same neighborhood you lived before the divorce. However, should you need to relocate for work or personal reasons, know you can do so without having to consult with your ex.

School

In addition to deciding where your child can live, you also get to decide where your child will go to school. Again, this is usually determined by where you live, but should you decide to send your child to a private school, you have the right to do so.

Religion

If you are a religious person, parents will sole custody have the ability to decide what religion the child will be raised. Obviously, once your child is old enough to make his or her own decisions, this should be left to the child; however, until then, you can make this decision and raise your child as you see fit following those religious beliefs.

Medical Decisions

Your child’s health is the number one priority, and sometimes health decisions will need to be made for your child. When you have sole custody, you are allowed to decide on your child’s medical decisions without consulting the other parent. For instance, if you are deciding whether or not to vaccinate, whether or not to go through with certain tests, or even whether or not to go through with a procedure, this decision is totally up to you until your child turns 18.

Support

Like visitation rights, you do not get to decide how much child support or alimony payments you receive from your ex. Instead, this decision is again made by the courts, and depending on where you live, it may be a state law that’s followed. Should you ever have any issues with your child support payments, be sure to take it up with the court, not your ex.

Having sole custody of your child gives you plenty of rights, but there are also things you simply cannot decide. Be sure to fully understand what you’re responsible for when it comes to your children, but also be sure to work hard to give them a solid relationship with the other parent, regardless of your personal feelings.