Back in the day, a bully would beat up another child and take his lunch, or a group of “mean girls” would ridicule another girl within her earshot. Those types of abuse still occur, and they’re still painful for victims to bear. But there is a whole new level of bullying called cyber bullying, which can be even worse – because the victim often doesn’t know who her tormentors are. Another way cyber bullying is worse is that there are no safe refuges. Cyber bullying can and does occur any time of the day night. Protecting your child from cyber bullies requires being willing to be tough about making rules and ready to take action.
What is Cyber Bullying?
There are two basic types of cyber bullying: abuse that takes place over social networking websites and hostile text messages about a victim sent directly to the victim’s cell phone or to his or her peers. Both types of cyber bullying involve name calling, taunts and sometimes threats. Cyber bullying may take place on its own or in combination with jeers and taunts made in person to the victim.
Cyber Bullying and “Sexting”
“Sexting” involves sending or receiving racy texts or photos – and approximately 20 percent of teens participate, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the National Campaign to “Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy”. “Sexting” crosses into cyber bullying when photos a victim might have sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend are forwarded to other children. Sexting also involves sexually-tinged taunts being sent to the victim or to his or her peers, which frequently results in the victim being subjected to name calling, groping, or worse.
Protecting Kids from Cyber Bullying
Many victims of cyber bullying or abusive “sexting” attempt to hide the fact that they are being bullied, which means parents must watch for telltale signs. If your child’s grades are falling but he or she doesn’t seem to be having academic difficulty, the problem may relate to bullying. If your child isolates herself, or if she attempts to hide his cell phone from you, it may be because he or she is being bullied.
Place limits on your child’s cell phone and computer use, not as punishment, but as protection. Encourage your teen to limit his or her online “friends” to real friends. Place the computer in an open area of the house and keep an eye on your child as he or she surfs the web. Take away your child’s cell phone at night.
Block chat rooms and sites where users can remain anonymous. Monitor your child’s Facebook page. Install tracking software on your child’s computer, again, not to snoop, but to keep track of any inappropriate content. Take screen shots of evidence you find that your child is being bullied. Print out hostile email messages and save abusive text messages. You will need this evidence to pursue punishment for your child’s bullies at school or to press criminal charges.