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What Is Online Harassment?

Text: Q&A

Online harassment is when someone uses technology -- like cellphones, computers, social media, or gaming platforms -- to bully, threaten, or aggressively hassle someone. A form of cyberbullying, online harassment includes name-calling, stalking, and physical threats. Girls and LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience these types of harassment and abuse.

Parents and caregivers can support their kids by understanding that relationships these days are often played out both online and offline. Kids and teens may need adults' guidance in establishing appropriate boundaries. The tips below can help you help your kids navigate these murky waters so they can avoid harm for themselves and their friends.

Start a discussion. Your kid may not tell you if they experienced online harassment or saw it happen to someone else. But you can bring it up when you talk about online safety, responsible behavior, and how to respond to offensive comments. Tell them about resources such as StopBullying.gov.

Let them know you're always there for them. Remind your kids often that you're always available to talk. While you're at it, remind them that they can also talk to a school counselor, a teacher, or other family members they trust. Knowing that they have a trusted adult to talk to may encourage your kids to open up.

Help them set boundaries. Encourage them to never to do anything that's outside their comfort zones, such as sharing passwords, talking to strangers, or sending sexually explicit photos. (It never hurts to remind them that anything you send can travel far and wide online.)

Take action. Online harassment can be traumatic, and can negatively affect one's mental health. If you find out your kid has been threatened or blackmailed, report the issue to school administrators, law enforcement, or community members who can help.

Catherine Beck contributed to this article.

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