cyberbullyingA bill was recently introduced to the House in Ohio that could soon make Oct. 6 an annual cyberbullying awareness day for the state. Unlike some other cyberbullying awareness efforts, Britain Bennett, the teen who came up with the idea for SMART Parent Day (Social Media Awareness, Respect and Timing), hopes to encourage parents to be a guiding force for their children, encouraging them to talk with their kids about cyberbullying online.

While this awareness day only applies to Ohio, cyberbullying is a relevant topic for all families. Although all states define bullying and have passed anti-bullying legislation for schools, very few actually criminalize it, and no state has yet to succeed in criminalizing cyberbullying — partially because the legal system has not caught up with modern technology and partially because giving a young child a criminal record is a controversial topic. That’s why it’s crucial for parents to do as much as they can to help prevent and put an end to cyberbullying as soon as they spot it. Here are some ways you can protect your children:

Know which social media sites/apps your children use

Not only should you know which social media apps your children are using, but you should also know how these apps work. Consider creating an account for yourself to get an in-depth look at these apps, or ask your children to show you how to use them. Parents of younger, more impressionable children may even want to take it a step further and ask for their children’s usernames and passwords, especially because there are anonymous messaging apps like KIK, which have proven to be dangerous for children and teens alike. By knowing which social media apps your children are using and how these apps work, you can get a better idea of how other people are able to communicate with your children, as well as what information they’re able to see on your children’s profiles.

Teach your children safe posting habits

Both parents and children can learn a thing or two about oversharing online. Not only are there concerns about cyberbullying and online predators, but by revealing too much information on social media accounts (such as your full name and address), you could also be supplying hackers with all the information they need, putting yourself and your family at risk of identity theft. While you should never post or share personal identifying information on social media, it’s important you learn about the privacy settings each social media app has, as well — especially since knowledge is one of the many ways you can help protect your children. As a parent, you’ll also want to speak with your children about “checking in” to places on social media and sharing their current location on posts, especially when they’re at home or school, as this can give their exact location away. Check out our guide to geolocation to learn more about location settings and the potential dangers.

Keep an open line of communication

While your children may not know exactly what to look out for on social media, you probably do. That’s why it’s important for you to establish and maintain an open line of communication with your children, so that they feel safe coming to you if they ever feel weird about something they saw or participated in on social media. You can also teach them to spot potential red flags of cyberbullying and warn them to never approve friend or follower requests from anyone they don’t know in real life. Also encourage your children to let you know if someone is sending them threatening messages or is making hateful or hurtful comments or just making them feel uncomfortable. Be sure to also show your children how to report these kinds of behaviors on each social media platform, and know that you can take legal action to protect your children, if necessary. Equally important is talking to your children about the consequences of participating in the bullying of others themselves, as plenty of cyberbullies kids deal with are their peers.

Want more tips on how to talk with your children about cyberbullying and other topics? Be sure to follow our parental control blog for more tips on keeping your children safe on social media and on the Internet.