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What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a relatively new term that describes bullying, taunting, or harassing another person - especially a child - over the Internet or any other interactive technology. Even electronic devices, such as gaming consoles and cell phones are being used to cyberbully.
Being a victim of cyberbullying can be a very painful experience for a child of any age. In addition to sending mean or harassing messages to their victims, cyberbullies often pretend that they are someone else, and try to trick their victim into saying bad things about a classmate or another person. If their victim falls for this tactic, the bully will often print out the conversation and use it to turn more children against the victim. Cyberbullies often spread lies or rumors about their victims. i-Safe™ (a leader in internet safety education) surveyed more than 1,500 fourth to eighth grade students from across the country regarding cyberbullying and found:
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online.
- 53% of kids admit having said mean or hurtful things to another online.
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online.
What are Some Examples of Cyberbullying?
- Threatening emails, instant messages, text messages, blog posts, etc.
- Forwarding of private messages.
- Posting or forwarding of hurtful images.
- Assuming someone else’s identity.
- Making fun of others.
Why does Cyberbullying happen?
The anonymity of the Internet can embolden the Cyberbully to pursue their target more aggressively. In real life, the bully can be someone the child knows through school, the neighborhood or some other means. However, it could also be someone that you child has never met. The Internet is accessed by people all over the world, some of whom are trolling to find an unsuspecting victim to prey upon.
Why are Children Reluctant to speak up?
Many children do not report cyberbullying because they are afraid of the repercussions. INOBTR (an organization dedicated to educating children, parents, and teachers about online safety) provides the following reasons:
- They are afraid of getting into trouble or they will get the bully in trouble and it will make things worse.
- They are afraid their Internet access will be taken away.
- They are often embarrassed about what is being said, and if they tell someone, that person might believe what is being said.
- The child may know the person who is bullying them and doesn’t want to be thought of as snitch.
How can you help Prevent Cyberbullying?
i-Safe™ and INOBTR provides the following tips for preventing cyberbullying:
- Get involved. Know which online tools, applications, and games your kids are using. Just as you wouldn’t send your child out to cross the street without preparing him with advice to "look both ways," make sure your child is aware of precautions he or she needs to take in the online environment.
- Keep the computer in an open area. Avoid letting your child have a computer in the bedroom. Instead, place the computer in the family room or other common areas. Be available to provide support to your children should they have any questions.
- Encourage your child to tell an adult. For some children, their reaction to being bullied is not only fright but confusion about how to react appropriately. Coach your child to tell a trusted adult if he or she is being bullied.
- Don’t chat while angry. Sending angry, hostile or taunting messages attracts cyber bullies. Make certain your child is not using email messages or chat rooms to vent his or her anger in a way that hurts others.
- Don’t encourage bullying. Teach your child not encourage others to bully someone. Tell them not to pass on hurtful messages.
- 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 chat rooms, message boards, blogs, social networking sites or any other Web site.
- Block messages from the bully. Utilize the blocking features in e-mail programs, chats and instant messengers to block communications from a bully.
- If your child is threatened with harm, report it! Contact your local law enforcement if someone has threatened you or your child while online. Be sure to save or print out the conversation as evidence.
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