My kids are not teenagers yet. They are eight and six and therefore are not on Facebook. The computer they use to play games or go online is on my work desk and in the family room next to the kitchen. They can’t do anything on it without their dad or myself hovering about. The homepage on the computer is the same home screen as the computers at my kids school, so that they are able to sit down and go right to their favorite games and websites (that I know are safe because they are the sites they visit at school).  Though my son does visit YouTube I am always there to watch what he’s doing (he generally uses it for superhero and Lego videos, some music and his favorite obsession Kid History). He also frequents Target and Amazon with an occasional visit to Wikipedia and the occasional reference or learning website to gather information for a report for school.

I feel by giving them freedom within the online boundaries I’ve set, I’m allowing them to learn how to navigate the internet, the rules of online safety yet stay safe while doing so. This is why I’m surprised when I hear about children so readily abusing the internet and using social media sites to hurt other people and even worse, to engage in a new trend known as “cyberbaiting” 

Cyberbaiting is when teenagers “taunt teachers to yelling or breakdowns and then record their reactions using cell phone camcorders.”

According to the Norton Online Family Report of the 2,379 teachers of students aged 8-17 interviewed, one in five of them (21 percent) had experienced “cyberbaiting,” and dealt with the fallout of “further shame or trouble” afterward. Oddly enough the survey found 34 percent of teachers who are “friends” with their students on social networks, yet 67 percent of them feel those friendships exposes them to risks.

The teachers aren’t the only ones having problems online. The survey also found 2 percent of children surveyed said they had a negative experience while online. Four in ten (39 percent) have had a serious negative experience, “such as receiving inappropriate pictures from strangers, being bullied or becoming the victim of cybercrime.”

The survey also published a number of other disturbing statistics regarding kids and their time spent online.

I guess I can’t say for sure how my children’s online experiences will be as they get older and I am forced to give them more freedom with the time they spend online, but I’d like to think that the guidelines I’m setting for them today will help teach them to be aware as they get older of the dangers of being online.

And as far the cyberbaiting, well that is a hard pill to swallow. The fact that some kids are doing this to teachers is just shameful. I can never imagine ever having tried to do that to a teacher when I was a kid. But then again, I did have some eccentric teachers growing up, and I can’t help but wonder if they had been a little bit nicer to us way back when if we had all been carrying around cell phones…

But I can’t help but also wonder if the teachers who are friends with their students on Facebook, and know it’s a bad idea, are asking for trouble. Personally, as I’ve shared before, I don’t even like being friends with my child’s teacher and I can’t imagine friending my students if I was a teacher.

What steps are you taking in your home to monitor your child’s online habits? And have you heard of “cyberbaiting?” What are your thoughts?

What can we do to teach our children the best way to interact online?