Cyberbullying was in the news a lot in 2010 because of the tragic toll it can take on victims. If you are not familiar, cyberbullying is bullying behavior (ie, teasing, spreading rumors or embarrassing pictures, making threats, intimidation) that happens online or via text messaging.
Cyberbullying differs from face-to-face bullying in a number of ways. With cell phones and home internet connections, cyberbullying easily follows young people home (or anywhere they have their cell phones), and can turn into a form of constant harassment that’s hard to escape. Additionally, bullying messages can be spread quickly to lots of people via e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which can give those messages more impact. Finally, messages and photos are hard to control and hard to get rid of once they’re online which can mean that their impacts and related issues can stick around.
There is a lot parents can do to prevent cyberbullying from becoming an issue with their kids and there are ways to deal with it if it comes up.
Talk with your child(ren) about your expectations for their online behavior.
- This could include telling kids not to say things in digital communications that they would not say in person, not sharing usernames and passwords with anyone but you, and clarifying which websites are okay for them to visit and which are “off-limits”.
- A great conversation starter and tool is an online behavior pledge like those found here.
- Make sure that your child knows that cyberbullying is unacceptable behavior and what the consequences will be if they are caught cyberbullying another child.
- If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, it is important that they tell you about it, and that they do not send harassing messages back to the bully. It is also best to save harassing messages, photos, etc. as evidence of cyberbullying.
- Talk to the school administration, the bully’s family, law enforcement, and/or report cyberbullying behavior to the website that has been used to spread the harassing messages, photos, etc.
- NetSmartz from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents
- Stop Bullying Now! from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration: http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/parents-and-family/family-do.aspx
- LMK (Let Me Know) from the Girl Scouts: http://lmk.girlscouts.org/Online-Safety-Topics/Cyberbullying/What-it-is—isn-t.aspx
- Common Sense Media, Inc.: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/rules-road-kids