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Cyberbullying. What is it and How to Prevent it.

Cyberbullying. What is it and How to Prevent it.

Cyberbullying is a pretty large topic to try to cover in a short period of time.  But, there are definitely some strategies you can try when you or your children are affected by this.  The key is to stop it as soon as possible.  Here are some ideas.

First, what is cyberbullying? It’s harassment that happens online and can happen to anyone regardless of age or gender.  And it can come from anyone, regardless of age or gender.  It can come from any electronic device – cell phones, computers, tablets and can come from social media websites, chats, texts, websites or any type of electronic messaging.  And it can be mean messages, rumors, embarrassing pictures or videos and it can come from real people or people hiding behind fake profiles.

Cyberbullying can happen quickly, anytime, spread fast and can be anonymous, which makes it not only hard to track, but also very difficult to stop.  Once a message, image or video has been posted and spread around, it’s almost impossible to make it go away.

Unfortunately, kids who are bullied online are often bullied in person and can have drastic effects on the student, including (from stopbullying.gov):

  • Use of alcohol and drugs
  • Skip school
  • Experience in-person bullying
  • Be unwilling to attend school
  • Receive poor grades
  • Have lower self-esteem
  • Have more health problems

In terms of frequency, from the same source:

The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that 6% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.

The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey finds that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year.

Assuming it’s happening to your kids in some sort of online environment, the first thing to do is to talk to them.

  • Encourage them to tell you if an online message or image makes them feel threatened, scared or hurt
  • If your child has a problem with a bully, tell them not to react to the bully as it will only make it worse
  • Save the evidence
  • Block the bully online if possible
  • Have any bogus profiles taken down
  • Encourage your kid to help stop cyberbullying – by not passing on other messages and telling the bully to stop
  • Report if necessary to your online Service Provider (ISP), or other social media sites.  Most of them have rules and processes in place to report and block cyberbullies
  • Report to law enforcement any time there are threats of violence, sexually explicit images (especially child pornography), stalking, voyeurism or invasion or privacy
  • If it’s happening at school, be sure to report it to the school authorities too.

In terms of prevention, this series is full of ideas and things to do to be aware of what your kids are doing and help them learn how to use technology safely.  But remember, keeping your kids safe online is more about your relationship with your children, than about the technology and also about knowing as much or more than your kids do about the internet.

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