For many kids, going to school can be quite a stressful experience. Often, children have to deal with many social pressures and peer issues, one of which is bullying. Now with computers and new technology, this aspect of school can follow children to their very own homes and continue to traumatize them, long after leaving the school grounds. This new form of bullying is called cyberbullying and it is an ever-growing concern for children these days.
Bill Belsey, the creator of one of the Internet’s most visited bullying websites offers this definition of cyber bullying;
“Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.”
Cyberbullying is often conducted through the use of email programs, instant messaging services, chat rooms, and open discussion forums and usually includes open threats, offensive and vulgar language, abusive speech, inappropriate images, impersonation, and even hate and racial slurs. Parents need to be on the lookout for this new form of bullying and should definitely monitor for it at home.
The big concern when bullying goes online is that your child is exposed to a much bigger group of potential bullies. The ability for a bully to target a child and create a mob mentality amongst other Internet users is quite large. When children are online, they often feel as though they are faceless and are capable of doing and saying things they never could in a regular social situation. Often, children participating in cyberbullying barely even know the child being bullied, and sometimes, don’t even know them at all.
The potential for an online bullying situation to get out control is quite apparent so the best defence is to be proactive when it comes to your child and their use of the Internet. Below is a list of five top tips to follow in your attempts to prevent and mitigate the effects of cyberbullying.
1. Continually Speak to Your Child
By keeping an open and honest line of communication with your child, you’ll be much more capable of noticing subtle changes in their behaviour. If your child suddenly goes from being energetic and cheerful to quiet and introverted, there is probably something amiss.
2. Keep Records and Printouts of any Inappropriate Material Received
While it may seem odd to hold on to content of any inappropriate and distasteful kind, you may actually need copies of this material if your child suffers from cyberbullying. As well, your computer will contain important information that could be of vital use to law enforcement if things get to this stage.
3. Inform Your Child of Ways to Handle a Cyber-bully.
The best thing a child can do is to try and quell a would-be bully by not responding to their provocations. Responding to any attacks will only cause further trouble. If this fails and your child feels as though they’re still being bullied online, make sure they know to discuss the situation with you. With your knowledge of the events, you’ll be able to contact the right people, be it school counsellors, principals, teachers, or parents to put an end to the situation. If your child does not know the bully, you may need to take things to the next level and contact the local police.
4. Inform Law Enforcement
If the cyberbullying becomes aggressive and insistent or involves highly inappropriate material, you should probably contact your local police department. This is especially true if your child doesn’t know the bully. The police will be able to track down the offender by using special tools and technologies at their disposal.
5. Make Sure Your Child Doesn’t Take Part in Bullying Others
This is an important lesson to instil in your child. This is even more important if your child has suffered from cyberbullying them self. Many children think that being mean and speaking ill of others while online is somehow less significant than when in person. The thing your child needs to remember is that there is always a victim on the other end. No one likes to feel demeaned and belittled. Your child can learn a valuable lesson and make a conscious choice to be above these actions. If your child is strong willed, their friends and peers may realize just how bad cyberbullying can be. Make sure that your child is aware of the impact their actions can have on others as well as the repercussions that would accompany being caught conducting cyberbullying themselves.
Bullying has taken on a new and unsavoury form as technology becomes more refined. Cyberbullying is now a distinct danger to children these days but by empowering your child with the appropriate knowledge and moral strength, you’ll be able to help prevent or overcome the potential effects that this new bullying can cause.
Eronne Ward is a mother of three, guardian to kids in need, activist for the protection of children online and runs a kids entertainment and education website – http://www.cackleberries.com