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Bullying is nothing new. But with our children using the Internet as a major source of socializing and entertainment, bullying has moved from the school playground to the Internet. This is known as cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is the use of electronic means to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise target someone. Because the computer often removes the emotions involved with face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can be more harmful to your child. Also, cyberbullying can have a more lasting effect on the child because of the permanency the Internet creates.
With cyberbullying happening in chatrooms, social networking sites, instant messengers, interactive multiplayer games, and cell phone text messages – just to name a few – it's important that parents are able to recognize some of the signs and know what to do if it happens to their child.
While there are not definitive signs that would let a parent know if his or her child is being cyberbullied, the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force does provide the following general guidelines to help identify if a child is being cyberbullied1:
- Change in personality - A normally upbeat child may suddenly become sad, angry or depressed.
- Change in or loss of friends - The child may suddenly start hanging out with a new group of friends or not socialize at all.
- Drop in grades - You may notice a drop in test scores and grades.
- Becoming more secretive - A child that would normally talk about his or her day may suddenly avoid talking about their day or time spent with their friends.
- Increased isolation - A child may start spending more time alone, in his or her room for example.
The following tips will help prevent cyberbullying2
- Get involved - Know which online tools, applications, and games your children are using.
- Encourage telling an adult - For some children, their reaction to being bullied is not only fright, but also confusion about how to react appropriately. Coach your child to tell a trusted adult if he or she feels they are being bullied.
- Don’t chat while angry - Sending angry, hostile or taunting messages attracts cyberbullies. Make certain your child is not using email messages or chat rooms to vent his or her anger in a way that hurts others.
- Stand united against it - If your child knows that someone is being bullied and doesn't do anything about it, they are essentially accepting it. Teach your child not to encourage bullying and not to pass on hurtful messages. Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult if he or she knows about a bullying situation.
- Don’t respond to the messages - Responding to messages only validates the child received the message and encourages additional responses.
- Don’t share personal information in chat rooms - Teach your child to never give out personally identifiable information such as name, address, email address, or telephone number in chatrooms, message boards, blogs, social networking sites or any other Web site.
If your child is being cyberbullied, report it to your child’s school or local law enforcement based on the intent and content of the message. Be sure to save the messages for evidence. For additional information on how to keep your children safe while online visit charter.com/security.
1 Laramie, Joe. (2009). Proceedings of the 10th National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention. New Orleans, LA: Author.
2 Adapted from: Cyber Bullying (n.d.) Retrieved September 24, 2009, from http://www.isafe.org/imgs/pdf/education/CyberBullying.pdf
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