Going to school can be a social minefield. Your child is there to learn but school is where they spend the majority of their day so they will have to learn to interact with other kids. Part of the social scene can include bullying. The newest element of this distasteful act is called cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is the use of online tools to harass someone. The harassment can be in the form of pornographic material, threatening messages, hate crimes and impersonating another just to name a few. Cyber bullying is conducted through websites, emails, IM messages and chat rooms. The idea is to terrorize another person and harm them with or without laying a finger on them.
This form of torture has become a real concern. It is bad enough when kids get pushed around in school by people who don’t like them or who want to pick on them for no reason. Online, the audience is much wider. Someone who doesn’t even know your child could participate in the harassment and slander their good name.
As a parent, you are not powerless. You know your child better than anyone so use that to your advantage when it comes to cyber bullying.
Here are some tips to help:
1. Talk to your child often. Staying in constant communication with your child alerts you when something changes in their behavior. A happy outgoing child who is now withdrawn has something going on. Talk to them about cyber bullying and let them know they can confide in you about anything.
2. Keep threatening messages. If your child does become a victim of cyber bullying, a record of the messages is evidence for future use. Your ISP can trace the messages to see where they originated. For most ISPs, explicit or threatening messages are against their operating policies and they either don’t allow them to be sent in the first place or keep very close watch for them.
3. Teach your child how to deal with the situation. First of all, don’t respond to the messages. It will only provoke the bully. Getting into a fight is not going to solve the problem either. Ask your child if they know what started the situation. A counselor could help your child to deal with the harassment. Don’t forget to be there for your child because as you know a parent’s love and support does make a huge difference in any situation, especially a negative one.
4. Call the police. When the harassment takes on a threatening tone or involves pornography, get the police involved. They can use their resources to find the offending person. Even if they can’t nail down the person who originated the messages, they can trace them to a household and investigate.
5. Don’t let your child become a part of the problem. Kids think that talking bad about someone online is all in good fun and harmless but there is always someone on the receiving end who isn’t having a good time. Discuss the effects of cyber bullying and the consequences if you are caught doing it.
Cyber bullying is a very real threat to kids. It can destroy lives. Learn to handle the situation with your child and take precautions to prevent it as much as possible.