Cyber Bullying: Keeping Your Child Safe Online
Bullying has been a problem that every generation has had to deal with.When I was a kid the “class bully” was usually a big child who used his physical size and strength to intimidate or hurt smaller or weaker classmates.
The explosive growth of texting and social networking sites like Facebook, My Space and Twitter allows any child to participate in a new form of bullying: “cyber bullying”.
What is it?
“Cyber bullying” describes the use of the internet, cellphones or other technology to send, post or text statements or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. Indirect activities like posting rumors on a public website can also be acts of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying has the potential to have greater impact than”traditional” bullying because of the public nature of the internet and the ease with which intimating and humiliating information can be distributed around the world with the touch of a button.
Cyber bullying is particularly difficult to stop because the bullies can hide behind the anonymity of the internet.
If anyone doubts the damaging effects of cyber bullying one need only look to the recent tragic suicides of two Nova Scotia teens. Family members of the teens indicate the girls took their lives after being subjected to repeated harassment and intimidation by cyber bullies.
The Nova Scotia government is taking the problem serious. They have hired respected law professor Wayne MacKay to chair a cyberbullying task force to provide the Department of Education with advice and recommendations about prevention.
Tips to Protect Your Child
Create limits: Have a discussion with your child about balancing the amount of time they spend online.Before letting your child to join a social networking site, consider requiring your child to provide you with the password so you can “check in” from time to time. Make sure the family computer is in a shared space. Consider using adult filtering software.
Communicate: Talk to your children about cyber bullying and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.Teach your children that if they are the subject of online bullying they should not engage with their tormentor but rather tell an adult immediately. Let your child know that they won’t be punished or lose their computer privileges if they let you know what’s happening to them.
Know the Danger Signs: Declining grades, excuses to avoid school, insomnia, depression, stomach aches, headaches and social withdrawal may all be signs that your child is being bullied. Spending lots of time online or, at the other extreme, refusing to use the computer altogether may also be signs of a possible problem.
Private v. Public: Teach your children that whatever they post online can potentially be seen by anyone; and the information is there forever. Posting pictures, text messages, even supposedly private instant messaging conversations can be sent around the world at the click of a button. Personal information should never be shared on the internet without parental supervision.
Tell your kids to never share their passwords with anyone and to change them regularly.
Cyber bullying often takes the form of identity theft where the bully steals someone’s identity and goes online to post insulting or humiliating comments.
Teach Them Right From Wrong: This may sound so obvious that it doesn’t need stating. But the anonymity of the internet means bullies don’t see the pain that they cause their victims. This makes it easier to participate in conduct that your child would never do face to face. Explain to your children that words have the power to hurt and that no one has the right to hurt anyone else regardless of whether it’s done in person or over the internet.
Take Action: If you suspect your child is being bullied, listen carefully to what they are telling you and don’t minimize their pain. Forget the “sticks and stones” lecture. It didn’t help when we were kids and it certainly doesn’t work now. The humiliation and long lasting emotional pain from bullying is real, damaging and potentially life threatening.
If you suspect your child is being subjected to bullying, contact the authorities at their school to make them aware of the problem. If the threats are serious enough contact the police.
For more information you can contact the Canadian Centre for Child Protection at: www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca .
You can report online exploitation of children at: www.cybertip.ca.
Information for Teachers and Other Professionals Who Work With
Young People: www.antibullying.net