Health & Safety
National Child Safety Expert, Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is one
of the country's leading child safety authorities, providing tips and advice to
parents on a broad range of issues facing all children - newborns to teens.
Is your child being "Cyber Bullied"?
Tips for Recognizing it and Stopping itby Alison Rhodes
As social networking sites and the internet become the “cyber playgrounds” for our kids today, the cyber bully is right there waiting to beat them up. Unfortunately, unlike the school yard bully of decades ago, who was limited to the kids in his or her school or community, this new breed of bully can extend the damage to hundreds and even thousands.
Today, over 87% of kids 10 – 17 are online and of these over 55% have an online profile. Cyber bullies are able to spread rumors, personal information and vicious attacks at the click of the mouse, all while remaining anonymous behind the cloak of a computer screen.
Cyber bullying is becoming an increasing problem and needs to be taken very seriously by parents and educators. According to a 2004 i-SAFE survey of 1,500 students in fourth through eighth grade:
- 42 percent have been bullied while online, and one in four more than once.
- 35 percent have been threatened online, and nearly one in five more than once.
- 53 percent admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online.
As parents, we need to become involved on a daily basis with our children’s online relationships and recognize when they are being bullied. It is not enough to rely on the government or websites to monitor this activity. It is impossible for them to verify identities and recognize when false information is being spread regarding your child. Become a “cyber savvy” mom, becoming your child’s advocate and teaching them appropriate “cyber etiquette” will help to ensure their experience online is both enjoyable and safe.
Understand It: Cyber bullying can take many forms. It can include:
- Sending instant messages (IMs) or texts which are mean or threatening.
- Creating a website or social network page in order to harass someone.
- Passing along personal information or false information and photos about a child or spreading rumors through e-mails, IMs or texts.
- Posing as another person by tapping into his or her e-mail accounts and sending hateful or embarrassing messages.
Identify It: Parents need to take an active role in their child’s cyber life. Here are some ways to become “cyber savvy”:
- Install internet monitoring software on all of your home computers. This will allow you to see if your child is receiving unwanted or harassing e-mails and texts.
- Google your child’s name and see what comes up. If you find personal information about her and she is under 13, contact the site as, by law, it needs to be removed.
- Go online and check social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook to see if your child has a page and what people are in her groups.
- Talk to your child’s school and determine if they have a specific cyber bullying policy in place – and not just adding the word “cyber bully” to their existing bullying policy. Be sure they too have internet monitoring and blocking software on their computers.
- Keep the family computer in an area where you can closely monitor it. Computers should not be allowed in your child’s room.
Stop It! As parents, not only do we need to take immediate action to stop cyber bullying but we need to arm our children with strategies to manage it and not promote it themselves:
- Establish an open dialogue with your child about your expectations of their online behavior.Reassure them that if they feel harassed or bullied in any way they can come to you.
- If your child is being bullied, keep a record of the communications and messages and even print them out. If they become increasingly threatening inform local authorities. And, if your child knows the bully, enlist the support of the school.
- Encourage your child to walk away from the computer the minute any bullying starts and to not engage in any way.
- Be sure that your child is not inadvertently a participant to bullying by passing along rumors, false information or personal information about another person.
- Help them to understand that if they witness cyber bullying not only should they not participate but that it’s important to they report it to you or a school authority.
As parents, we must be aware of what’s happening online and take cyber bullying incidents very seriously.