RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — In the days since the death of a Wendell Middle School student, who, according to his family, died by suicide after being bullied, a lot of parents are trying to figure out how to keep their children safe.
The chair of the Security and Computing Department at Campbell University, Dr. Amanda Parker, says it’s important that parents are aware of the dangers of cyberbullying.
“When I was in school, I always thought of someone who was a big bully who would steal your lunch money on the playground, but now it’s anyone, anywhere and it’s 24-7,” she said.
She says cyberbullying is particularly common among middle school-age students, and it can be difficult to stop.
“They can’t get away from it even if they try to,” Parker noted. “You can shut down social media for your kid — you can shut it down, but it doesn’t matter because people are still putting everything out there.”
She advises parents to monitor all of their children’s devices, but she says it’s still easy to miss things.
“I have all the passwords to my kids’ phones,” Parker said. “But that doesn’t mean that I’m seeing everything that is being posted or that they are seeing or searching for, so communication also is very, very key — talking to your kids about this.”
She says talking to children about cyberbullying is the most important thing parents can do to stop it or find out if they need help. She also suggests talking with other parents.
For Jessica Tyndall, online safety is a group effort. Her son is 11 and her daughter is a freshman in high school.
Her daughter is online every day for school and has social media accounts.
“I try to monitor what gets posted and I make sure her profile is private and only her friends can access it,” Tyndall explained. “My mom actually follows her. My neighbors do too, so we have kind of a nice community patrol.”
While kids love to stay connected online, and Parker says there are benefits to screen time, such as interacting with friends and using technology for research, she says kids shouldn’t spend all of their time on their phones — there’s a lot of benefit to spending time outdoors and face to face.