Preventing cyberbullying: 'Absolutely, that's the parent's job'

Preventing cyberbullying: 'Absolutely, that's the parent's job'
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The story of a 12-year-old Florida teen who committed suicide after being bullied online for nearly one year is once again bringing national attention to the issue of cyberbullying.

Police say cyberbullying is a big concern here in the Treasure Valley, but that it can be prevented. When it comes to keeping your kids safe online, you're the best buffer they can have.

For Staci Thomas, a story that happened of thousands of miles away hits home.

"Just kind of breaks your heart especially having a 12-year-old," Thomas said. "You assume they tell you everything, but obviously in some cases they don't talk to their parents."

Thomas says her daughter doesn't have Facebook yet, but that she hopes her teen will feel comfortable talking with her when she does. Many times, kids and teens do the exact opposite, and try to hide things from their parents.

"Kids these days are much better at electronic devices than their parents," Officer David Gomez, a School Resource Officer with the Meridian Police Department said. "A lot of times it's the kids sowing the parents about the applications on their phones and iPads, so it's hard for the parents to keep up."

Gomez says applications like Snapchat and Ask.fm are designed in a way that makes it easy for teens to hide things from their parents, and to torment one another. Studies show that teens are hopping online earlier than ever before, and that there are more social media platforms emerging all the time.

Thomas says many of her daughters' friends have things like Facebook already, but that their parents monitor what they're doing online. She says when her teen logs on to the site, she'll do the same.

"Absolutely, absolutely," Thomas said. "I think that's the parent's job, to keep an eye on the kids. Especially when they don't really know what's out there. Protect them."

Gomez says educating yourself and keeping tabs on what your kids do online is the most effective way to curb cyberbullying.

"I can help it at the school, we can help it at the police department, we can help it, but really the number one way to stop bullying is parent involvement," Gomez said. "I have seen the incidents go down greatly with the education. I think when I started I was getting four to five bullying complaints a day, and that's gone down to once every two weeks or so."

While it's easy to want to be your child's friend, Gomez says it's important for parents to be parents. He said you should make sure you have access to all of your kids' social media accounts, and keep your self up on the different kinds of apps they're using.

He says it's best to start involvement early, and suggests having a central charging location for all of your family's electronic devices. That way, it will discourage your kids from using their devices in private.

The conversation about bullying is extremely important, Gomez said. If your kids are being bullied online through Facebook or other social media platforms, Gomez says to familiarize yourself with privacy settings and other security options. For example, on Facebook, if someone says something offensive, you can block or delete that user.