Cyber bullying poses a threat to our children and teenagers. It is on the rise, and is perhaps the most insidious form of bullying since often the perpetrator remains anonymous. The February issue of The Informed Parent ran Part 1 of “Cyber Bullying” (see archives). The article discussed where the bullying occurs and how it differs from traditional forms of bullying. It offered suggestions that parents could take to decrease the chances that their children become either victims or perpetrators of cyber bullying.
This month we will discuss steps both parents and children can take if a child has been cyber bullied.
Some 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). Others were adapted from Cindi Seddon’s online article “Cyber Bullying: What Kids Can Do To Protect Themselves” (http://www.bullybeware.com/resources/students/articles/103-cyber-bullying-what-kids-can-do-to-protect-themselves.html.)
Your action will depend on the nature and severity of the bullying, which can range from rude comments to lies, impersonations, and threats. Unlike dealing with face-to-face bullying, a number of the strategies require some sleuthing.
Many parents hesitate to interfere in their children’s internet activities, believing that they are impinging on their privacy. Responsible, informed parents know the difference between snooping and protecting their children’s safety. Always be honest with yourself about why you are checking up on these internet practices. Let your children know when you have traced what they are doing, and be clear with them that it is a safety concern as well as your moral and legal responsibility.
Author and middle school principal, Cindi Seddon, suggests telling children to STOP, BLOCK, and TELL. Before kids send messages to others, they need to STOP and ask themselves the following questions:
If the answer is “NO” to any of the questions, the message should not be sent. Most children know the difference between right and wrong. They need to make the right choices with their behavior.
Often children hesitate to tell their parents when they have been cyber bullied. They know it is wrong and also know they need help to handle the problem. They are afraid, though, that they will be seen as a rat or a tattletale if peers discover their reporting. They feel stuck. Children may not know the difference between ratting or tattling and reporting and telling. Teach them that reporting and telling keeps them and others safe. Tattling and ratting is usually done for personal gain while hoping to get another in trouble. Let them know that cyber bullying will not stop without adult intervention and may require assistance from the law or legal sources.
Children must TELL if the bullying is to be stopped. Children have the right to ask what you will do with the information they give you. Be honest with them. Tell them how courageous they were to report the situation and that you will make every effort to honor their privacy.
When possible, future messages from the site or sender must be blocked. Let your children know that you will BLOCK and that it is for their own safety and well-being.
Parenting today requires more knowledge and greater discrimination and sophistication than it once did. Parents are required to make decisions that can be intimidating, such as involving the police in family matters. It takes courage to do the right thing. Cyber bullying is something that many parents find difficult to address. As well as the information in this article, several websites are listed below to assist you in knowing how to handle your concerns. Being armed with knowledge is the best way to address difficult problems.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provide this site. Type in your question at the “Search this Site” arrow at the top of the page, and numerous sources will come up.
The two psychologists providing this site give useful information that can be gleaned by using the left hand sidebar and clicking on “Resources.”
This site, provided by The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, provides research articles and practical information for parents, students, and educators. Scroll to the bottom of this site and click on “Information for Parents.”