Cyberbullying is a real and constant focus of discussion, debate and concern. Not a week goes by, it seems, when there isn’t a news article about some aspect: cyberbullying, or text-bullying.
Cyberbullying is a complex social issue. Whether your child is behaving as a bully or feels like a victim—or is simply a bystander while someone else is bullied—it is important to take the situation seriously. Sometimes parents or others may see “getting picked on” as just a part of growing up and ignore the pecking order of childhood. However, the fact that teens and pre-teens are committing suicide makes this a very real issue that we as a society must tackle head on. Many jurisdictions and schools are making the penalties for such behavior much stringent.
The Cyber Bullying Research Center did a series of surveys that found that:
- Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyberbullying
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly
- Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyberbullying
- Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyber bullies or their victims
- Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls
- Cyber Bullying affects all races
- Cyber Bullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider suicide
What is Cyberbullying?
What Can You Do About Cyberbullying?
The folks at Cyber Bullying Statistics. org put together a helpful list that may reduce the occurrence of cyberbullying:
- Talks to teens about cyberbullying, explaining that it is wrong and can have serious consequences. Make a rule that teens may not send mean or damaging messages, even if someone else started it, or suggestive pictures or messages or they will lose their cell phone and computer privileges for a time.
- Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyberbullying is occurring. Tell them if they are the victims they will not be punished, and reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.
- Teens should keep cyberbullying messages as proof that the cyberbullying is occurring. The teens’ parents may want to talk to the parents of the cyber bully, to the bully’s Internet or cell phone provider, and/or to the police about the messages, especially if they are threatening or sexual in nature.
- Try blocking the person sending the messages. It may be necessary to get a new phone number or email address and to be more cautious about giving out the new number or address.
- Teens should never tell their password to anyone except a parent, and should not write it down in a place where it could be found by others.
- Teens should not share anything through text or instant messaging on their cell phone or the Internet that they would not want to be made public – remind them that the person they are talking to in messages or online may not be who they think they are, and that things posted electronically may not be secure.
- Encourage your child never to share personal information online or to meet someone they only know online.
- Keep the computer in a shared space like the family room, and do not allow children to have Internet access in their own rooms.
- Encourage kids to have times when they turn off the technology, such as at family meals or after a certain time at night.
- You may want to wait until high school to allow their them to have their own email and cell phone accounts, and even then parents should still have access to the accounts.
How do you talk with your teens about Cyberbullying?
Be honest and interested! A good ole fashion kitchen table conversation is a MUST. Make your kiddos aware that whether you’re tech savvy or challenged; they can come to you with any problem and your there to listen and find a solution. Gone are the days of simply telling your kids “you’re just going to have to stick up for yourself”. We as 21st century parents must stay connected through online resources, communities and seek advice from experts.
Also, have a heart to heart about the penalties that your child will face if they participate in cyberbullying. Find out how your local school district handles such cases and your local state government or jurisdiction.
There then, is the trickle down effect that happens in family, friend life and can eventually permeate the education and social systems.
Some Additional Thoughts on Cyberbullying
- Be Informed - Learn about your school’s policy on cyberbullying. How do staff members respond to these types of situations and how can families be involved in creating solutions.
- Reach Out- Get in touch with professionals who understand cyberbullying. Talk with teachers, program staff, counselors, coaches who have experience and training with the issue.
- Speak Out and Connect- see if other parents or community members want to help create a positive environment for kids.
- Be Alert for the signs of cyberbullying- If the circumstatiness. However, it is best to make someone aware of the dangerous behavior. Also, make sure that your kids are comfortable telling you about the situation. Let them know that your their safe haven.