Navigating through cyberspace is a daunting task for most parents.

These adults are trying to keep children safe from whatever lurks in the sinister shadows of the internet and social media.

“I was definitely worried about cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying,” said Connecticut mom Carrie Swiatek Setter. 

It turns out, adult predators not as worrisome as you may think.              

“It is far more common that peers are involved in activities in terms of cyber-bullying that are causing a lot of damage,” explained child psychologist Dr. Laura Saunders at the Institute of Living at Hartford Health Care.

She warns parents to watch out for a change in patterns of behavior.

“They used to enjoy activities and they don’t enjoy activities any more. Now, they’re complaining all the time about going to school, they’re not wanting to go to school,” she said.

To find out more, Dr. Saunders said be more creative.

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Take a less direct approach and ask questions about their friends.

“They are more willing to talk about someone else but often that’s reflective of what’s going on with them,” she said.

Also, develop a social network with other parents like Setter did. 

“By talking to each other, we figured out that they were getting around all these things and so we definitely were like, ‘Okay, we need to do something different,'” she explained. 

Dr. Saunders explained, “Sometimes, Parent A gets a piece of information, Parent B gets a different piece and Parent C gets a third piece and then you inquire about each of them and now you’re putting together a whole puzzle.”

Instead of setting up safeguards, Setter, a mother of three children, chose a different approach.

“The thing that I found that was most important was starting conversations with them about that, what to watch for and what to look for, because I felt if I set up any sort of filters, they would just find a way around it,” she said.

Direct conversation is what Dr. Saunders prescribes, minimizing the threat of cyber bullying. 

“The reality is, the more we can intervene when there are problems that are small, the better it is in the long run,” she explained.

Dr. Saunders said being involved in a child’s life is effective, especially as they reach adolescence where friends’ opinions and values hold more weight than those of parents.