Cyber Bullying

What is cyberbullying, exactly?

"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking.

(definition provided by the STOP Cyberbullying website)

Cyber Bullying Research Center

"I think that it is not right and that people need to have respect for other people as in the saying treat others how you would like to be treated. The people that do bully people just want to show of how much bigger and cooler they think they are. Bullying isn't just threatening or any thing else, it is spreading rumors and like sending mean messages with threats in them. If that does happen you should either block their email address, save them and call a local police to come and read it (they could serve time for hate mail). But one of the things you should not do is RESPOND TO THE HATE MAIL!"

(11 year-old girl from Tennessee)

STOP Cyberbullying

Preventing cyberbullying

Educating the kids about the consequences (losing their ISP or IM accounts) helps. Teaching them to respect others and to take a stand against bullying of all kinds helps too.

How can you stop it once it starts?

Because their motives differ, the solutions and responses to each type of cyberbullying incident has to differ too. Unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all" when cyberbullying is concerned. Only two of the types of cyberbullies have something in common with the traditional schoolyard bully. Experts who understand schoolyard bullying often misunderstand cyberbullying, thinking it is just another method of bullying. But the motives and the nature of cybercommunications, as well as the demographic and profile of a cyberbully differ from their offline counterpart.

What's the Parents' Role in This?

Parents need to be the one trusted place kids can go when things go wrong online and offline. Yet they often are the one place kids avoid when things go wrong online. Why? Parents tend to overreact. Most children will avoid telling their parents about a cyberbullying incident fearing they will only make things worse.

Parents need to be supportive of your child during this time. You may be tempted to give the "stick and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you" lecture, but words and cyberattacks can wound a child easily and have a lasting effect. These attacks follow them into your otherwise safe home and wherever they go online. And when up to 700 million accomplices can be recruited to help target or humiliate your child, the risk of emotional pain is very real, and very serious. Don't brush it off.

Let the school know so the guidance counselor can keep an eye out for in-school bullying and for how your child is handling things. You may want to notify your pediatrician, family counselor or clergy for support if things progress. It is crucial that you are there to provide the necessary support and love. Make them feel secure. Children have committed suicide after having been cyberbullied, and in Japan one young girl killed another after a cyberbullying incident. Take it seriously.

Parents also need to understand that a child is just as likely to be a cyberbully as a victim of cyberbullying and often go back and forth between the two roles during one incident. They may not even realize that they are seen as a cyberbully.

We have a quick guide to what to do if your child is being cyberbullied: Your actions have to escalate as the threat and hurt to your child does. But there are two things you must consider before anything else. Is your child at risk of physical harm or assault? And how are they handling the attacks emotionally?

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