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Helping Your Child Deal With Cyberbullying

by CHWatch on February 23, 2011

Children often fall victim to bullying in their schools and in their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the popularity of the Internet and cell phones extends bullying into the ether world. Cyberbullying, also called electronic bullying, is just as harsh, demeaning and hurtful as playground bullying.

Because electronic bullying reaches extend much farther than real-life bullying, the child victim often feels its impact far more deeply and comprehensively. Fortunately, parents and children can be proactive in lessening its impact or stopping it altogether.

What Composes Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is when a child of any minor age is tormented, humiliated, threatened, harassed, embarrassed, or otherwise targeted by another minor aged child using the Internet, mobile phones, digital or interactive technologies. Text messages, websites, social networks, and bulletin boards are common modes of cyberbullying, but the methods extend beyond those few examples. So long as technology is involved and other qualifications above are met, it’s cyberbulling.

It can be direct or indirect. Comments, slanderous posts, and derogatory notations and pictures posted on the Internet or via text messages to others is direct; indirect cyberbullying can include online identity theft and false ID postings or text messages.

The key differences between cyberbullying and other types of cyber crimes are that minors must be the harasser and the victim and that it must be electronic. Name calling or taunting when face to face is simply bullying, not cyberbullying.

Cyberbully victims can become depressed, angry, aggressive, violent or suicidal. Victims can turn tables and become cyberbullies against their harassers and other victims.

It is not, however, a one-off communication unless it involves stated or implied but credible threats of violence or death, and it’s not something that should ever be dismissed.

Proactive Steps

Your child and you can take steps individually and together to protect him or her. The steps are not difficult, but the decision to take them each and every time it happens can be. Communication and cooperation are cornerstones to stopping cyberbullying. Below are only a few steps that a child and a parent can take:

1. First, talk with your child. Explain what cyberbulling is and let the child know he or she can and should come to you any time it happens and that it’s a safety issue, not snitching or tattling.
2. Depending on the child’s age, a parent can rehearse appropriate actions—ignoring the cyberbully, reporting the harassment to chat room or other social network sites, teachers, and parents. Role playing can help the child take control of the situation and empower the child. However, under no circumstances should the child retaliate in kind.
3. Parents can lock out inappropriate sites, monitor websites visited, and cell phone use if necessary. Talk with the child’s teachers, school administration and guidance counselors. Know with whom your child associates at school and who seems to be bullying in real life; often, cyberbullies are local to the victims and rarely engage in only one instance or one mode of cyberbullying.
4. In extreme circumstances, disabling privacy browsing and using more than one parental control program can alleviate some of the worry. Change program access passwords often and never have them correlate with any other password or handy pattern.
5. Report cyberbully behavior to the instigator’s parents. Provide proof and not just accusations. Keep copies of everything.
6. Show the child websites dedicated to child online safety. Help the child set up an account on each if necessary. If the child doesn’t feel comfortable talking with parents about it, make sure the child knows where he or she can go for online help with a cyberbully.
7. Watch the child’s behavior and school work. Often, patterns are discernible if a parent pays attention.
8. Connect with your child on social networks. This will allow you to see your child’s other connections and following the links on social networks can often determine if someone is a cyberbully.
9. If all the above fails, contact law enforcement with records of dates, times, places, websites, and content and cooperate with their investigation.
10. Most importantly, talk with your child often about online safety and cell phone networking. Keep in touch with each other. Stopping cyberbullying is much easier in its early stages, and the child victim is much less traumatized.

About the Author:

JC Ryan is a freelance writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online courses and online schools they can choose from to reach their goals.

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