Definition: Cyber bullying 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.
Bullying is no longer about the strong picking on the weak in the schoolyard. Online bashing has been added to the bully’s arsenal. No longer can parents count on seeing the tell-tale signs of physical bullying. However, the damage done by cyber bullies is no less real and can be infinitely more painful. (2004 I-Safe survey of 1,500 students)
We need to break the code of silence and have children feel comfortable reporting incidents without fear of being labeled a snitch or rat. Parents and educators need training to deal with this complex problem.
Click here for more information on training
Signs your child may be a target or victim of cyber bullying
- Behavioral: Notice if your child seems upset after leaving the computer or avoids using the computer. Decline in grades and subtle or out of character comments.
- Emotional: Child displays distress, anger or depression. The signs of cyber-bullying may include many of the same signs of other types of bullying.
Click here to see signs of bullying
What to do if your child is a victim or target of cyber bullying
- Ignore the chat/remarks/messages and leave thecommunications environment
- Send one message to the cyber bully 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 cyber bully to the folder
- Do not reply, respond or open any further messages from that sender
- Make a note of the cyber bully’s name
- Contact your service provider to report the harassment and ask for assistance in identifying the sender or caller. Be aware sometimes a child 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 services.
- Contact the internet provider of the bully. Forward the message and request the account be terminated
- Change your child’s email address and or ;phone number
- If the child knows who the bully is, an adult can make a person-to person call. Personal communication is still more effective than electronic communication.
When to contact Law Enforcement
- If a threat of violence or personal information about a child 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 cyber bully / harasser to cease and you have notified the Service provider
- Civil law provides for victims to sue a bully or a bully’s parents to recover damages. You may want to speak with an attorney to decide on a course of action
What to do if your child is a cyber bully
- Sometimes cyber bullies have been victims themselves and are retaliating. Help your child understand that retaliating is not a smart move. It only escalates the problem further and your child may be mistaken as the source of the problem.
- Talk about the implications of severe cyber bullying. Let him/her know that it could lead to arrest or civil litigation.
- Make sure he/she understands that what they put out there can never be erased. It becomes a “cyber tattoo”.
- Help your child develop empathy. How would you feel if someone did the same thing to you, your best friend or your sibling?
- Help your child understand this is a reflection on their character. What would a trusted adult who is important in my life think if they read what I wrote or it was posted on the front page of the newspaper? How would this reflect on me?
Click here to see how to help the child that bullies.