You use the same approach you would use for just about any other "how to protect my children" question.
Step 1: educate yourself.
The first thing you have to do is educate yourself. What does your child do online, and where are the risks they're going to face? If you have a good relationship with your child, you can ask them about it directly. You can also use software to monitor the internet traffic, but that can cause honesty issues and might not be worth the investment. You then have to know who they're talking to online and why those interactions are taking place. For example, are they real-world tie-ins (like a study group that also has a chat room) or friends from another school, or just a replacement for our generation's hanging out at the mall?
Of utmost importance is to educate yourself in your child. By this, I mean reading her language and body language to know when there's a problem. Most kids think they're better at hiding these things than they really are, and you need to know how your child is feeling to protect them against any threat, of which cyber bulling is one of many.
Step 2: educate your child.
Your child must be aware of a wide variety of online threats - child predators, bank scammers, "Nigerian Princes". Their "friends" are just another avenue of real threats your child needs to be aware of to protect themselves against when they're online. And honestly, these people are in the "real world" too. Don't talk to strangers; don't hang around people who harass you; be confident in yourself and don't stand for destructive criticism. Do not let your child assume that because it's on the internet it isn't real: it is real. You have to protect your child not just from receiving cyber bullying, but also from dishing it out. They might not be aware that the actions they take on the internet will have real consequences on another child's fragile emotional structure. Again, no different than at school or at the park.
Step 3: build a trust stockpile.
There are about four hundred thousand ways for a child to disown their parents, and only a small handful of them include the internet. If you don't have a strong bond of trust with your child, you aren't going to be able to protect them from much of anything, including cyber bullying. There's no formula for doing this, as each child and parent are so different, but at the core I've found that consistency and honesty are the foundation of any trusting relationship. So start there.
These three steps (educate yourself, educate your child, build a trust stockpile) are a rough outline for solving a lot of the various "teenage unknowns", especially in territory where the world has changed so much since we were kids and we need to catch up.
I'd also like to leave you with a couple very strong *don't*s:
- DO NOT simply cut off your child's internet access for fear of cyber bullying. This will most likely just incur more social stigma, and also create a lot of resentment.
- DO NOT interrogate your child or make them feel like a victim. You might be trying to just get information, but if you seem too controlling you will lose a lot of trust.
- DO NOT say one thing and do another. If you communicate directly with your child and say you won't be using monitoring software or time-limiting software, and you do anyway, you can throw the trust you might have built right out the window.