• Burton Kelso, The Technology Expert

4 Ways to Stop Cyber-bullying this Holiday Season

As schools break up for the year, parents need to be on guard for cyber bullying, which spikes during the holidays. While parents are busy with holiday preparations, kids go unattended with lots of time on their hands. Unfortunately, this combination can lead your kids to unwanted online behavior including cyber bullying. Here some things you can do to curb cyber-bullying in your household this Holiday Season:

Keep Channels of Communication Open. One of the best ways to stop cyber-bullying at its roots is to keep clear and open communication with your kids. Most kids who experience cyber-bullying do not open to their parents. They think that they will be blamed or will lose their computer, smartphone or internet privileges. Let them know that you will listen to their problem or situation and then respond in an adult way. If your kid is a cyber-bully, acknowledge the problem exists and too many parents shut their eyes and deny their child could do such a thing in spite of the evidence. Unfortunately, when parents choose the path of denial what they really choose is to deny their child the opportunity to change their behavior and learn from the damage they've done.

Put Your Hands On Your Kids Devices. Make sure you have their passwords. It's your device. Don't allow your kids to charge any smart device their rooms. This serves two purposes. It ensures they go to bed, but it also puts the device in your control every night when they go to bed. Finally, do spot check on your kids' phones every once and a while and I especially check your kids' phones if there is an overall change in their moods to see what's going on. Let your kids understand that you will always have access to their devices. This helps deter bad behavior. At the end of the day, it's about teaching personal responsibility.

Use Parental Control Software. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T offer family monitoring services that show your child's location, who your children are calling and who they are texting. Additionally, these services allow you to block numbers, set data limits and times of day they can use their device. In the end, these services don't show pictures sent via social media apps or the actual text sent. If you are going to monitor your child's phone, look to reputable companies such as Teensafe or MamaBear.

Keep Your Kids Busy with Off-Line Activities. Rather than getting glued to the Internet all day long, try to get them involved in different winter day activities that do not require cyber time. Winter is a great time to enjoy the outdoors. Let them go on play dates, enjoy playing outdoors or give them educational games or toys.

You can also ask teachers to give supplementary work over the break. If weather prevents you from doing outdoor activities, plan family friendly activities such as streaming movies or playing traditional games.

BONUS TIP: DON'T DELETE IT. If you are attacked by a cyberbully, not only should you IGNORE them, but keep the messages. The more evidence you have, the more chances you have to stop the cyberbully. The police, website or internet service provider will be able to use these messages to block an account or bring criminal charges if applicable.

What steps do you take to keep your children safe from cyber-bullies? Drop us a line and let us know. Please share this information with everyone.

Burton Kelso, husband and father of two tech savvy boys and Chief Tech Expert at Integral, which offers on-site and remote tech support, computer set-up and repair via locations all over the Kansas City Metro and online at www.integralcomputerconsultants.com. He regularly appears as a guest tech correspondent on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS on shows such as Kansas City Live, Better Kansas City, FOX 4 Morning Show, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets. You can find Burton on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and watch great tech tip videos on YouTube.

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