From parks to schoolyards, bullying has been a way of life. Some insecure youngsters need to feel bigger, better and badder than their peers, so they pick on vulnerable students without a second thought. These victims used to be able to keep their distance, but a new trend is expanding bullying from the playground to all areas of digital life. Cyberbullying affects millions of students. It’s time to learn about this dangerous new form of harassment.
Cyberbullying occurs when technology and the Internet are used to threaten, humiliate or attack someone. In many ways, cyberbullying can be much worse than other forms of bullying. Not only does the Internet allows bullies to attack their victims in the privacy of their own homes, it often provides them a veil of anonymity.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 50 percent of students have reported being cyberbullied at some point. These children are often the subject of vicious threats, malicious lies and degrading or humiliating comments. Children who are being cyberbullied often become depressed and some are driven to contemplate or to even commit suicide.
After a recent spate of highly publicized suicides that were linked to cyberbullying, lawmakers in a number of states have either passed or are attempting to push through anti-bullying legislation, according to thomsonreuters.com. For example, New Jersey passed an anti-bullying law after the 2010 death of a Rutgers University student. Under this law, schools must create protocols to deal with bullying. The Florida senate also approved a similar measure that allows public schools to discipline students who have used or been on school property to commit cyberbullying acts, according to cbslocal.com.
Parents and teachers need to be alert to any emotional changes they observe in a child. Often, children who are being bullied, whether in person or through cyberspace, will begin acting differently and become withdrawn, according to ncpc.org. If you notice changes such as these, make an effort to start a dialogue with your child. Discuss the benefits and pitfalls of technology. Sure, technology enhances our lives, but when used improperly, technology can have devestating effects.
Teach your child basic cyber skills, such as being careful of what pictures or posts they put on the Internet and that even private emails, instant messages and social website comments can be copied or forwarded and used against them. Teach them that cyberbullies can even alter innocent remarks or pictures to use against your child.
Limit your child’s time online. As more children get smartphones, this has become increasingly hard to do, so some parents require their children to give them their passwords and account names for social websites. According to www.cable-tv.com, you can add passwords to different levels of content to monitor your child’s media habits. Although most children will grumble about this, in reality, if a post or a picture isn’t appropriate for a parent to see, then it probably has no place online.
If you child tells you that he is being cyberbullied, act on his behalf. Make copies of any cyberbullying comments or posts and then take them to the appropriate authority, whether that be the police or school officials or both. While cyberbullies often believe they are hiding behind a veil of anonymity, law officials can usually easily discover the parties behind the attacks and work to stop them.