With the prevalence of tablets, laptops and smartphones, today’s youth are afforded access to the internet with increasing ease. The downside is that unsavory internet bullies also have easier access to your kids.

The plague of cyber bullying can often take many different forms and come from several different directions. Whether it’s by a close friend from school or a complete stranger on the other end of the world, the end result is the same — psychological hurt. And as a parent, it is your responsibility to properly educate and prepare your child to navigate the challenging waters of the Internet.

Educate Yourself

Before you can help protect your child from cyberbullying, you need to acquaint yourself with the internet sites that they’re using. Start by reading up on the social networks that your child frequents, and if you are one of the many parents that struggle with technology, try asking a friend or relative for help. There are also several online guides dedicated to helping parents better understand technology, such as the guide published by the National Crime and Prevention Council, as well as dedicated online forums where you can ask questions to other parents.

Once you have a better understanding of social networks and the Internet, sign up for your own account, but be sure you’re covering the full gamut, as there are a host of social media sites that you may not be familiar with, such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, all of which offer ways for people to communicate directly online. After creating your own accounts on these sites, you’ll be able to follow your children to see who they communicate with and the information they are sharing online.

Talk to Your Children

Starting an honest conversation with your child is one of the most critical steps to take if you want to protect them from the dangers of online bullies. Remember that kids are blank slates, and their first experiences with the internet will make a lasting impression on them, so start an open dialogue and try to inform them of the benefits and dangers of the web.

You should also work with your child to create a plan of action if the situation arises where they are victim to cyber bullies. In such a case, it is always better for them to ignore the offending remark or action and come to you directly. If the interaction occurs on a social media network, security tools allow you to block the offending user. But don’t lose sight of the fact that cyber bullying can eventually spill over into the real world, so if the user is someone you know, such as a student from your child’s school, try bringing the problem to the attention of their parents.

And if the offender persists, save and print the relevant messages to give to your local police and school officials.

Monitor Your Child’s Online Activities

Depending on the age and maturity of your children, unfettered access to the Internet may not be a wise idea. Instead, place the family computer in a public area of your house. By placing the computer in a public space, such as the living room, you will be able to more closely monitor your child’s online activity, and engage them in conversation without feeling like an intruder.

If you can’t always monitor your child’s online access at home, you can use Internet filtering software to limit your child’s access to social media sites, chat rooms and online games. Although these tools offer some protection, don’t rely solely on these filters as the modern day tech-savvy child might eventually learn to circumvent such programs.

In general, never rely on technology to do the parenting for you.

Set Limits

In addition to monitoring your child’s online interactions, you can set firm rules on Internet usage in your house. For instance, by only allowing internet access after school homework or household chores are completed, you can effectively establish internet access as a reward, instead of as a right. This will encourage them to avoid bullies, in order to maximize the pleasure of their internet time.

If your child has a smartphone, you may want to set limits on that as well. Several applications already exist that will allow you to check up on their activity in real-time from the comfort of your home PC. This will alert you to any bullying that the child might be concealing, and if you suspect they may be deleting, or hiding text messages, you can then disable the service altogether while still allowing your child to make phone calls.

Look for Signs

Even if you have a positive and open relationship with your children, they may not always come to you after interacting with a cyberbully. However, you can look for some signs that may indicate that your child is dealing with a bully. Some of these signs include aggression, irritability and changes to their sleeping and eating habits.

Try confronting them directly about their problems, and make it clear from the outset that they’re not to blame. If your child proves reluctant, or dismisses your help, then try talking to their teachers or fellow parents to get the full story, and consider bringing the child to a therapist for professional help.

Allowing your child to roam the Internet without any guidelines or education can lead to disaster. so stay involved in your child’s online activities to make sure their internet experience is a healthy one.