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Cyberbullying, Haters, and Trolls

What is digital harassment?

Digital harassment is when kids (or grown-ups) use cell phones, social networks, and other communications devices to bully, threaten, and aggressively badger someone. Although it's a form of cyberbullying, it usually takes place between two people in a romantic relationship.

Parents can support their teens by understanding that relationships these days are often played out both online and offline -- and kids need their parents' guidance in establishing appropriate boundaries. Young love is complicated enough without the added pressure of constant access and public scrutiny. The tips below can help you help your kids navigate these murky waters so they can avoid digital drama for themselves and their friends.

Start a discussion. Your teen may not tell you if harassment is happening directly to him or her. But you can bring it up when you talk about online safety and responsible behavior. Tell kids about resources such as That's Not Cool and the Love is Respect.

Let them know you're always there for them. Remind teens often that you're always available to talk. While you're at it, put in a plug for the school counselor, a teacher, or even a friend's parent. Knowing that they have a trusted adult to talk to may encourage teens to open up.

Help them set boundaries. Tell teens never to do anything that's outside their comfort zones, such as sharing passwords or sending sexual photos. (It never hurts to reiterate that anything you send can travel far and wide.)

Take action. If you find out your teen has been threatened or blackmailed, bring the issue to his or her school administrators or law enforcement. Although you never want to overreact, your child's safety is the priority.

Has your kid ever suffered digital harassment?