Cyberbullying -- A Closer Look

The popularity of instant messaging, e-mail, web pages, text messaging, and blogging means that kids are potential cyberbullying targets -- all day, every day. Victimization on the Internet through cyberbullying is increasing infrequency and scope. Electronic bullies can remain "virtually" anonymous. Temporary e-mail accounts and pseudonyms in chat rooms, instant messaging programs, and other Internet venues can make it very difficult for adolescents to determine the identity of aggressors. Individuals now have the ability to hide behind some measure of anonymity when using their personal computer or cellular phone to bully another individual.

Talk to your children about cyberbullying:

1 - Tell your children they do not have to accept any online activity meant to intimidate, threaten, tease, or harm them or anyone else. Remind that that giving bullies attention is exactly what they want, so ignore them as much as possible. Tell them not to erase or delete messages from cyberbullies. Your children do not have to read the messages they receive from bullies, but they (or you) need to keep messages as evidence. To report cyberbullying, it is important to save as much information as possible. The more you save, the easier it will be to track down the people that are bothering your child. (Save the e-mail, e-mail address, date and time received, copies of all relevant e-mails, screenshots, etc.). Finally, use software to block bullies if encountered through chat or IM and use privacy settings on social networking pages.

2 - Encourage your children to talk to you if anybody says or does something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. It's important to stay calm and keep open lines of communication with your children. Make sure you or your children tell their school if the bullying is school related or involves another student. If you or your children are threatened with harm, contact your local police.

3 -Watch for the warning signs of being cyberbullied, such as reluctance to use the computer, a change in your child's behavior and mood, or reluctance to go to school. 

4 -Tell your children to guard their contact information. Children should assume that people will use the information they post online to cause them harm. Remind your children that the people they communicate with and befriend online have open access to ALL of their posted content and information, and they can forward or use any of that information against them. 

5 - Remind your children that those who bully want to make their victims feel as if there is something wrong with them, but victims should know that there is nothing wrong with them; it is the bullies who have the real problem.