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The Informed Parent

Cyber Bullying

In March 2003 an article titled “Dealing with Bullies” appeared in The Informed Parent. The article suggested ways to assist children in responding to bullying. Since that time bullying has taken on an additional and more insidious face. As well as bullying that occurs at school, in malls, and even at home, bullying occurs online. Most of the following points are taken directly from R. Kowalski’s online article, “Electronic Bullying Among School-Aged Children and Youth” (http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adult/indexAdult.asp?Area=cyberbullying).

Sometimes referred to as online social cruelty or electronic bullying, children and youth cyber bully each other through:

  • e-mails
  • instant messaging
  • text or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones
  • web pages
  • web logs (blogs)
  • chat rooms or discussion groups
  • other information communication/technologies

How Does Cyber Bullying Differ from Other Traditional Forms of Bullying? 

  • Cyber bullying can occur any time of the day or night.
  • Cyber bullying messages and images can be distributed quickly to a very wide audience.
  • Children and youth can be anonymous when cyber bullying makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to trace.

Who Cyber Bullies?

Although research is in the infant stages it appears that girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims as well as perpetrators of cyber bullying. When interviewing victimized children, more than half reported being bullied by another student at school; under half had been bullied by a friend. Many children do not know who picked on them. Among students who admitted to perpetrating cyber bullying on others, more than half had chosen another student at school in addition to bullying a friend.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Keep your home computers in easily viewable places such as a family room or kitchen.
  • Talk regularly with your children about online activities they are involved in.
  • Talk specifically about cyber bullying. Encourage your children to tell you immediately if they are the victims of cyber bullying., cyber stalking or other illegal or troublesome online behavior.
  • Encourage your children to tell you if they are aware of others who may be the victims of such behavior.
  • Explain that cyber bullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior. Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior. Make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.
  • Tell your children that you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern.
  • If you feel it is warranted, consider installing parental control filtering software and/or tracking programs. This lends to a false security as it cannot prevent cyber bullying from occurring. Tell your children if you do this.

Next month we will look at ways your child can respond when they become a victim of cyber bullying.




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