Cyberbullying

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Definition: Cyberbullying is online social cruelty using cell phones, computers or other electronic devices to humiliate, harass, embarrass or taunt someone with words or images. It may include social-emotional threats or threats of violence.

 

Facts about cyberbullying:

In a 2006 study, one in three online teens reported experiencing a range of cyberbullying activities, including receiving threatening messages; having their private emails or text messages forwarded without consent; having an embarrassing picture posted without permission; or having rumors about them spread online.

One in five students 11-18 years old said that they had been cyberbullied; but interestingly, the same percentage admitted to cyberbullying someone at least once in the past.

Older children or teenagers may bully via text messaging, social networking sites, chat rooms, and other forms of digital or online communication.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin J. (2010) Cyberbullying fact sheet: Identification, Prevention and Response. Cyberbullying Research Center

*Remember The internet is A WRITTEN RECORD. It is exactly the same as publishing an article or photo in a newspaper. Your words and images can be forwarded, re-posted, blogged and listed anywhere a million times over.

The impact of cyberbullying can be wider-reaching than bullying in person. The speed of the internet have permitted youth to create websites to make fun of other people, to impersonate other teens on social media sites, and to circulate embarrassing photos, all within a matter of minutes. It can also be anonymous: youth who are being cyberbullied may not even know who is bullying them, or specifically why they are being targeted. Teens who cyberbully might not otherwise have engaged in bullying behaviors. Sometimes it is in retaliation from being bullied in school or online.  It is often easier to be cruel when the person who is bullying does not see target’s responses.                                                                                                                              

Today, making face-to-face communication is the exception rather than the norm. Our lives have “gone digital”.  Homework assignments, report cards, and social interactions all increasingly have a digital or online component. The internet is a wonderful tool and has many advantages. Obtaining information and communicating are much easier than it was years ago. Most kids enjoy using computers to study, play games and communicate with their peers. Recent research found that more than 90% of kids were already online playing interactive games by age 8.  Just as teaching manners and etiquette at a young age is important, we need to address internet etiquette and computer use. There are certain rules of behavior that should be followed for computer use. A good rule of thumb; don’t say anything to someone in a text or online unless you would say it to their face.

The ease of communication has helped to move bullying beyond harassment at school or on the playground and into cyberspace.  The signs of cyberbullying are harder to detect and may not be evident to parents. However, the damage done by cyberbullying is no less real than physical bullying and can be infinitely more painful. Bullying tends to occur where teens congregate. Today, two-thirds of teenagers go online daily to do school work, connect with friends and read about their favorite celebrities.

Social networking sites aren’t the only place where cyberbullying happens, but they’re one of the most common. Kids post comments, send cruel messages, post hurtful polls or pictures, or start rumors about others. As children grow, most bullying episodes either happen online or both online and in school.  By high school, very few incidents happen only in school.

We need to break the code of silence and have victims feel comfortable reporting incidents without fear of retaliation. Everyone would benefit by training to deal with this complex problem.

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When cyberbullying takes place it’s a good idea to develop alternate activities that are enjoyable to keep one’s mind off the digital abuse. Children who have suffered the torment of cyberbullying should be encouraged to talk to a trusted adult. Above all the adult should keep the conversation going allowing the youngster vent.

 

Additional Guidelines When Cyberbullying Takes Place:

Ignore the chat/remarks/messages and leave the site.

Send one message stating clearly: “Do Not communicate with me again or I will contact the appropriate authorities". Do not respond to the content of the message.

Block the caller’s / sender’s messages.

Save all messages in a folder. Set the email filter to direct all email from the sender to the folder.  

Do not reply, respond or open any further messages from that sender.

Contact your service provider to report the harassment and ask for assistance in identifying the sender or caller. Forward the message and request the sender’s account be terminated. Be aware sometimes a person may invade an account of another person and send out damaging material to get that person in trouble. There are also companies that specialize in email or web tracing service.

Change your email address and or phone number

Change your email address and or phone number

When to contact law enforcement

*If a threat of violence or personal information is posted online.

*If there is excessive intimidation or extortion threats that involve any form of bias or discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

*If contact continues after you have asked the harasser to cease and you have notified the service provider.

*Civil law provides recourse for victims. You may want to speak with an attorney to discuss your options.

 

Parents

If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied

*Familiarize yourself with the computer and internet. The more you know, the better you will understand what your child is going through.

*Gather as much information as you can.  Young people’s relationships can be very unpredictable – friendships can change in a short period of time. What your child is experiencing might be a conflict. Find out if there is a pattern of harassment. Don’t make light of the behavior or your child’s feelings.

*Try not to immediately stop instant messaging, email, social networking sites, cell phone, or the Internet. Your child might perceive this as punishment for reporting the bullying to you. Banning use probably will not be very effective and it may further alienate a teen who is accustomed to communicating online. Your focus should be on changing the offending behavior, rather than curtailing computer use to communicate.

*Encourage your child to document the bullying incidents and keep a diary, draw or engage in other creative activities that will help him deal with his emotions. Your child may need time before he or she is prepared to discuss feelings with you, but in the meantime encourage your child to create and use a ‘safe space’ to express those feelings.

*He may not want to talk about the problem with you: make it clear that it is perfectly acceptable to you for them to want to talk to another trusted adult about what they’re going through, but that you are always willing to listen and help.                                   

*Don’t force your teen to discuss things before he’s ready, keep him involved in family, community and other group activities while he sorts out his feelings and becomes more comfortable discussing them.

*Join forces with other adults. If your child knows who is bullying him and it is someone from his school, contact the teacher or other school authority to enlist their help on how to best and most constructively communicate with the perpetrator’s parents or guardians. Some teens who engage in bullying behaviors are more likely to be struggling in other areas of their lives, or may also be victims of violence or intimidation.

*Keeping your child involved and listening to his opinions about how to resolve the problem will empower your him. Learning to deal with adversity and rough patches are a vital part of his developmental process.

*Don’t hesitate to make difficult decisions including the decision to involve law enforcement or take legal action if the bullying behavior escalates to the level of credible threats of violence.

*If you suspect your child is cyberbullying others… Conflicts, arguments, and misunderstandings between friends are part of growing up.   A child’s behavior won’t always be values that we have imparted to him. Bullying, however, is not normal, and could mean that your child is struggling in some areas of her life. Focus on stopping the bullying behavior and determining what may have caused it. Consider physical as well as emotional or learning problems as a cause. In the short term, it is important to let your child know the behavior is unacceptable and if necessary, seek help from a professional.

Steps for parents to take if you suspect, or learn that your child is engaging in bullying behavior.
Adapted from material produced by the
Cyberbullying Research Center.

*Confront the behavior right away. This does not mean you should be confrontational. Instead, listen and don’t judge. Talk with your child, and find out what’s going on. Are her or his friends also bullying? Is your child struggling with an issue that makes him feel powerless in other areas of their life? Also be prepared for your child to deny or make light of their behavior, or even to become defensive or angry. Be firm, persistent and calm.

*Draw clear boundaries. Make your expectations and the consequences for violating them clear. Let your child know that bullying behavior is never acceptable and that the consequences, such as loss of privileges will be enforced. Make the connection between appropriate online behavior and behavior you require of them in person.

*Provide appropriate models for empathy, respect, and compassion. Try to understand your child’s feelings and talk about what the person they are bullying might be experiencing. Is your child aware of the impact of his behavior? Children and teens who bully others may have been victimized themselves, or may not have had adequate models of empathetic, respectful and compassionate behavior.

*Practice some critical self-assessment: Have you modeled that behavior for your child? Have other people that are a part of their life done so as well?

*Give positive feedback when you notice healthy choices. Apart from correcting negative behavior, you should also reinforce the positive, including praising the times when he practices constructive resolution of difficult situations.

*Show love and support. Offer and seek support for your child. Behavior change will take time. Give your child love and support, even if you are angry or upset. Seek out the help of others who can partner with you in your efforts to put a stop to the bullying.

*Enlist the support of other caring adults, including teachers and school authorities. Work with them to develop a mutually agreeable plan of action to change your child’s behavior. If your child has a trusted adult he respects, ask him to step in to help find out what may be at the root of the bullying behavior, and to help you address it.

*Find out if expert help is necessary.  Bullying behavior can escalate quickly and turn into something much more difficult to address.  If you or others have serious concerns about the nature or intensity of your child’s behavior, seek expert assistance to help you decide how to address it, including whether to get them professional help.

Steps For Youth About Sexting Adapted from material produced by the Cyberbullying Research Center.

 

Sexting

Teens who receive a nude or semi-nude image of a classmate should immediately delete it.  In the case of a naked photo of an under-aged youth it can be devastating for all involved. The police often treat these images as child pornography – irrespective of the intent of the sender or the relationship of those involved. If you take the picture, you can be charged with “creation of child pornography.” If you send or forward the picture, you can be charged with “distribution of child pornography.” If you keep it on your phone, you can be charged with “possession of child pornography.” In some cases you could even end up on state sex offender registries. If there is an investigation and someone asks if you received the image, you should tell them yes, but that you immediately deleted it.