October 22, 2011

Cyberbullying: What Parents Need to Know

Cyberbullying: What Parents Need to Know

Cyberbullying, instead of happening face-to-face, happens through the use of technology such as computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.  Cyberbullying peaks around the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. Many times the "conflicts" that started online outside of the school come onto campus when the parties involved are face-to-face. Dealing with cyberbullying is a new, frustrating and complicated process for many schools. Informing and educating parents about this new mode of bullying is an important step in curbing this activity.

Examples of cyberbullying include:
  • Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
  • Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
  • Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others

Bullying online is very different from face-to-face bullying because messages and images can be: 
  • Sent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • Shared be shared to a very wide audience
  • Sent anonymously

Research on cyberbullying has found that students involved are more likely to:
  • Be unwilling to attend school
  • Receive poor grades
  • Have lower self-esteem
  • Have more health problems

Cyberbullying can have particular affects on those who are targeted. Research has found that young people who have been cyberbullied are significantly more likely to:
  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Skip school
  • Experience in-person bullying or victimization

Although it is difficult for you to monitor your children at all times, it is extremely important to pay close attention to possible cyberbullying incidents involving their children, especially if their kids are younger. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)  gives parents control over what information websites can collect from kids.

Help Kids be Smart Online or While Texting
Here are some things that you can do to help prevent cyberbullying. Communicate with your children. Set up a daily time to check in with your son or daughter, and listen to any concerns about online activities that they are involved in. Talk specifically about cyberbullying and encourage your children to tell you immediately if they see or experience cyberbullying. Be aware of where your children go online. Familiarize yourself with the technology they are using. Develop and enforce rules. Work together and come to a clear understanding about when, where, and for what purpose phones and computers can be used. Develop clear rules about what is and what is not appropriate online. Decide on fair consequences and follow through consistently.

How You Can Help
If you know or suspect your children are being cyberbullied, take quick action. Talk with your children. Do not just ignore the bullying problem or hope it will go away. Tell your child that you are concerned and that you'd like to help. Tell your child not to respond to cyberbullying. Responding can sometimes make the situation worse. Empathize with your child. Tell him or her that cyberbullying is wrong, that it is not their fault, and that you are glad he or she had the courage to tell you about it. Do not assume that your child did something to provoke the bullying. For instance, do not ask things like, “What did you do to aggravate the other child?”
Work together to find solutions. Ask your children what he or she thinks can be done to help, and reassure him or her that the situation can be handled and still keep them safe. Document ongoing cyberbullying. Work with your children to record bullying incidents. Write down what happened, where, who was involved, and when it occurred. Find out how your child reacted and how the students bullying, bystanders, and adults responded.
Block the person who is cyberbullying your children. Many websites and phone companies let you block people. Cyberbullying may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of these services. Consider contacting them to file a complaint.Contact law enforcement. Police can respond if the aggressive behavior is criminal. The following may constitute a crime:
  • Threats of violence
  • Child pornography and sexting
  • Taking a photo image of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
  • Harassment, stalking, or hate crimes
  • Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Extortion

Be Persistent. Talk regularly with your child to see whether the cyberbullying has stopped. If the bullying persists or escalates, you may need to contact the appropriate people again or talk with an attorney. Don’t give up.

StopBullying.gov is an official U.S. Government Web site managed by the Department of Health & Human Services in partnership with the Department of Education and Department of Justice.

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