Cyberbullying is another hazard now appearing on social networking sites. Kids no longer need muscles to bully and torment their peers. An overwhelming majority of harassment incidents were occur on social networking sites. What may start as a joke, once launched into cyberspace, can be very serious. The impact on the victim can be devastating and even tragic.
Cyberbullying is highly varied and hard to define. Parents can no longer count on seeing the tell-tale physical signs of bullying - a black eye, bloody lip or torn clothes. But the damage done by cyber bullies is no less real, and can be infinitely more painful.
At its core, it is sending or posting derogatory or hateful material on the Internet with the intent to harm another. Cyberbullying can be defamatory to a group, a team, a race or target a single victim. Bullies employ any or all cyber communications, including posts to social networking sites, texting, chat rooms, email, instant messaging and blogs, to harass, threaten, spread lies or distribute embarrassing pictures. The Internet gives bullies a worldwide audience for taunting their victims while maintaining some anonymity.
Cyberbullying Tips for Parents (Cyberbullying Research Center, 2014):
Establish that all rules for interacting with people in real life also apply for interacting online or through cell phones. Convey that cyberbullying inflicts harm and causes pain in the real world as well as in cyberspace.
Make sure your school has Internet Safety educational programming in place. This should not solely cover the threat of sexual predators, but also how to prevent and respond to online peer harassment, interact wisely through social networking sites, and engage in responsible and ethical online communications.
Educate your children about appropriate Internet-based behaviors. Explain to them the problems that can be created when technology is misused (e.g., damaging their reputation, getting in trouble at school or with the police).
Model appropriate technology usage. Don't harass or joke about others while online, especially around your children. Don't text while driving. Your kids are watching and learning.
Monitor your child's activities while they are online. This can be done informally (through active participation in, and supervision of, your child’s online experience) and formally (through software). Use discretion when covertly spying on your kids. This could cause more harm than good if your child feels their privacy has been violated. They may go completely underground with their online behaviors and deliberately work to hide their actions from you.
Use filtering and blocking software as a part of a *comprehensive* approach to online safety, but understand software programs *alone* will not keep kids safe or prevent them from bullying others or accessing inappropriate content. Most tech-savvy youth can figure out ways around filters very quickly.
Look for warning signs that something abnormal is going on with respect to their technology usage. If your child becomes withdrawn or their Internet use becomes obsessive, they could either be a victim or a perpetrator of cyberbullying.
Utilize an “Internet Use Contract” and a “Cell Phone Use Contract” to foster a crystal-clear understanding about what is appropriate and what is not with respect to the use of communications technology. To remind the child of this pledged commitment, we recommend that these contracts be posted in a highly visible place (e.g., next to the computer).
Cultivate and maintain an open, candid line of communication with your children, so that they are ready and willing to come to you whenever they experience something unpleasant or distressing in cyberspace. Victims of cyberbullying (and the bystanders who observe it) must know for sure that the adults who they tell will intervene rationally and logically, and not make the situation worse.
Cyberbullying Tips for Kids:
- Tell an adult you trust about what’s going on.
- Don’t delete any of the emails, texts, or messages. They can serve as evidence.
- Keep a record of incidents.
- Don’t forward any mean messages that spread rumors about you or someone else. Don’t cyberbully back. Revenge is never the best answer.
- If possible, report the incident to the administrator of the website. Many websites including Facebook and YouTube have safety centers to report cyberbullying.
- Recognize that you don’t deserve to be treated that way, and you deserve respect.