Cyber-bullying is harassing another through emails, instant messages, text messages, and other avenues of electronic communication. Some bullies start out as a friend, an ex, or someone your child may know well. In one bullying case, it was another parent that may have been the cause. It is a little frightening to think about, but something can be done steps can be taken ensure a child’s safety online and in schools.
The first step is prevention, set rules and guidelines for children concerning internet etiquette and usage. Explain to children why you are using such programs like WebWatcher to keep them safe without violating their privacy. Educate them on internet etiquette: ask them to consider who will see their words online. In face to face conversations children can see who they are talking to and modify their comments to fit the situation, this does not happen online, explain this to them in detail. Online, a parent may or may not know who will see the content your child contributes, or understand what your child is trying to say. Their peers may take what the child has said in a different manner than intended.
Facebook and other social networks (PlayStation and Xbox) are not private. Even though your child may have private settings, Facebook and other social networks are billboards that others see and talk about. Remember, some bullies start out as a friend, ex, or someone your child may know well. Explain to children your rules of internet usage and what you expect out of him or her. Teach them it is unacceptable to expose information about themselves or someone else including pictures and videos without permission.
“Facebook, computer, and gaming console usages are privileges. Children should be able to demonstrate the responsibility that goes along with those privileges. A parent does do not hand their child the keys to the car if they have been drinking. Why would a parent allow their child to use Facebook and other social media if they have been using it inappropriately? Our job as parents is to teach our kids how to deal with the challenges that they will encounter.
What do I do if your child is being bullied.
Do not.. respond to the text messages, instant messages, emails or other communications the child may have received from the bully. Bullies want a reaction from their targets, so communicating back will only make things worse. Do not let children reveal their address, phone number and whereabouts online. A parent might be tempted to let the bullying run its course instead of bringing attention to the problem, but this is unwise, the bully will get the message that there is no consequence for putting someone else in danger. Do not inform a child to handle the situation or expect them to. Do not assume the problem will go away on its own. Report it.
Save all messages, verbal and audio, and if possible the of the bully. Then block the bully from any direct communication with the child through any social network, phone, or console. Prevent the bully from finding a new way to contact the child by limiting the amount of personal information available online. The bully may find a way to continue harassing a child by posing as someone else. Eliminate the possibility by changing the child’s screen name as well as the profile picture.
What is the next step?
There are effective ways to deal with the situation. Documentation is key here, every email, text, instant message, web address, audio clips, and other evidence that can be collect from the bully is evidence. Write down the time and date that each message was sent and the IP address if available. For school harassment , file a notice of harassment, with documentation in hand, contact your child’s school’s patrol officer then principal for help. Never approach the bully’s parents, as this is a job for either the school, or the police. If you do not know who the bully is, if a child is being bullied by a group of people, call the local authorities and inform the school board.
The worst thing a child and a parent can do is not report the abuser. Parents and Children who do not the abuse is making this type of behavior acceptable.
Raising children is perhaps harder than ever, but parents can succeed against cyberbullying with the right mix of guidance, wisdom and parental involvement. Most of all do not be afraid to step up and protect your children. Bullying is everyone’s business.
This article was written by Laurell Morse, a writer for dusk magazine.