Bullying doesn't just happen in our schools. It is also prevalent on the Internet in the form of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic means to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise target someone. Because the computer often removes the emotions involved with face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can be more harmful to our children. Also, cyberbullying can have a more lasting effect on the child because of the permanency the Internet creates.
OnGuardOnline.gov provides the following tips on cyberbullying:
Tell Your Children not to Bully
Explain to your children they can't hide behind the words they type or the images they post. Hurtful messages not only make the target feel bad, but they also make the sender look bad - and sometimes can bring scorn from peers and punishment from authorities.
Communication is Important
Ensure your children are comfortable with talking to an adult. Explain the importance of letting an adult know if an online message or image makes them feel threatened or hurt. If you fear for your child's safety, contact the police.
If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, tell them not to respond. Bullies usually are looking for a reaction from their target. Instead, encourage your child to work with you to save the evidence and talk to you about it. If the bullying persists, share the record with school officials or local law enforcement.
Read Comments and Postings
Cyberbullying involves mean-spirited comments. Check out your child's posts from time to time to see what you find.
Protect your Child's Profile
If your child finds a profile that was created or altered without his or her permission, contact the company that runs the site to have it taken down. Also, consider changing your child's usernames and passwords.
Block or Delete the Bully
If the bullying involves instant messaging or another online service that requires a "friends" or "buddy" list, delete the bully from the lists or block their username or email address.
Help stop cyberbullying
If your child sees cyberbullying happening to someone else, encourage him or her to try to stop it by not engaging or forwarding anything and by telling the bully to stop. Researchers say that bullying usually stops pretty quickly when peers intervene on behalf of the victim. One way to help stop bullying online is to report it to the site or network where you see it.
For additional resources on cyberbullying, visit:
Prevent Cyberbullying and Internet Harassment - http://www.cyberbully411.org
National Crime Prevention Council - http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying
Net Cetera - Chatting with Kids About Being Online - http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/net-cetera.aspx