Like it or not, our youth of today choose to communicate via the Internet. With Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube within easy and convenient reach through the smartphones that are fast becoming standard issue, cyberspace is taking the bullying to a new level.
Dubbed ‘Cyber Bulling’, countless stories have hit the news of teens who have taken their lives due to malicious treatment by their peers in cyberspace. As Moms, now more than ever we must be aware of the potential dangers involved with all the connectivity.
Cyber Bullying is defined as harmful actions that are communicated via electronic media and are intended to embarrass, harm or slander another individual. Most commonly, it takes place on Facebook and You Tube, with a rise being witnessed in texting, SMS and chat rooms. Within minutes an attack can be spread virally with little to no control over the outcome.
The most prevalent victims are 14 to 17 years of age, but sadly a high number of children in Grade 1 have been reported as victims. The reality is Cyber Bullying is widespread, according to a recent cyber bullying survey, nearly one in five Canadian students surveyed reported having been bullied online in the past three months.
What can result from Cyber Bullying?
• A sense of worthlessness
• Delinquent behavior
• Long term consequences with relationship building
• Suicidal thoughts and even suicide
What are some signs that you can look for in your child?
• Your child unexpectedly stops using their cell phone or computer
• Is hesitant or fearful when an instant message, text message, or email pops up
• Is showing signs of abnormal withdrawal from friends
• Is showing signs of anger, frustration or sadness
• Abnormal sleep patterns
What can you do to prevent Cyber Bullying?
First and foremost, educate your children on appropriate online behaviors.
• NEVER send or posting something when angry
• Do not respond in anger as this is often the response the bully is looking for
• Create open and honest relationship and lines of communication with your children.
• Create a contract with your child for Internet Use and Cell Phone Use.
• Check with your school to see if they have a Bullying Policy, and specifically a Cyber Bullying Policy.
How should you react if your child is a victim of Cyber Bullying?
• NEVER respond in anger, this will only make the situation worse, especially for your child.
• Listen empathetically and very carefully to your child.
• Ensure your child feels safe with you, and has another trusted adult they can turn to if you are not available.
• Gather as much information as you can about the incident and report it to your school and if the situation warrants, police, website administrators, Internet service providers and or cell phone service provider.
What if my child is the Cyber Bully?
If you in any way suspect that your child may be a cyber bully, it is very important to address the problem as soon as possible. You may notice your child quickly closing an application on the computer as you walk by, having their cell phone with them at ALL times and not allowing you to see it, an increased amount of time spend on the internet. Be aware!
If your child is a Cyber Bully:
• Emphasize firmly that Cyber Bullying is a serious problem, and ensure they understand you will NOT tolerate it, with consequences:
o Technologies they are using to harm others will be taken away
o Taking away privileges
o Require them to give back by volunteering for those less fortunate
• Speak with staff at the school and ask for feedback on how your child is interacting
• Find out if your child’s friends are also bullying, and if so – seek guidance from the school principal, counselor and/or counselors.
• Educate your child on the positive results of treating people with respect and kindness.
Join us in building awareness by Standing Up to bullying for National Bullying Awareness Week (November 14th to 20th)!