This is the last post in my series about bullying. As someone who has worked with children and teens for years, this is a subject that I have been passionate about exposing and educating my readers about. I have learned a lot in my research for these posts and I hope you have learned from them. Today I tackle cyber bullying. This may be the newest form of bullying but I fear it is the most dangerous and most prevalent. Through my research on this specific topic, I have been made aware that some incidents that have been happening and I have been dealing with for a few weeks now, qualify as cyber bullying. I will share some of our story as we go along.
Cyber bullying is when a minor is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another minor using the Internet, digital technology or cell phone. Legally once adults are involved on either side-it is no longer cyber bullying. Cyber bullying takes many forms such as IMs and text messages, blogs and websites, pictures shared via camera phones, polls, sharing malicious code, stealing passwords and impersonation. Because cyber bullying doesn’t take place in person weaker and younger kids are involved. Most cyber bullies do not fit your typical bully profile.
Cyber bullying starts as early as 2nd grade and usually peaks in middle school. Statistics show that 58% of 4th-8th graders who have cell phones or Internet have been cyber bullyng victims. Also 53% of them have said or shared things that qualify them as being cyber bullies themselves. Kids who are texting and IMing at young ages seem to accept this behavior as normal, because “everyone is doing it”. Many have been on both sides of the offense at such an early age it has become almost acceptable. For teens the statistics are slightly lower 40% of all teens say they have been cyber bullying victims.
One of the most prevalent and seemingly innocent form of cyber bullying is polls. They come via text message, IM and e-mail; I have seen them, my son has had them forwarded to him. They say things like Do you think (insert name here) is fat or ugly or whatever? Then press 1 for yes and 2 for no and forward this to 10 of your friends. Eventually it gets back to the person that is being talked about and they are hurt by what has been said about them.
Sending and/or forwarding IMs, texts and e-mails that speak maliciously about another person is a form of cyber bullying. Writing mean, angy, untrue, gossipy blog posts is cyber bullying. Spreading lies about someone via any electronic medium is cyber bullying. This is where our incident has come to. It started a few weeks ago-I was actually made aware of it by another mom whose daughter wasn’t comfortable about what she had read about my son. (Yay for her!) The mom called me and I spoke to my son. In a nutshell a 6th grade girl has decided she can’t live without my 11th grade son about what was said. His response was-You know she is annoying, It will go away, and I’ll block her on my cell phone and IMs. Because he has refused to “acknowledge her love for him”, she is spreading vicious rumors about his character through the church youth group. The other day I get a call from our youth pastor’s wife informing me that another girl mentioned to her what was being said about my son, (Yay for her!) and wanted to make sure I knew. Ugh! The drama. I will now be contacting the girl’s mother to discuss the problem. Fun, fun.
Anyway, other form of cyber bulling are spreading compromising photos-often taken in school bathrooms and locker rooms with camera phones, forwarding malicious code and viruses, stealing passwords and trashing the victims web page/blog/social media profile and impersonating the victim. This makes the victim look like the perpetrator as they say/do mean things about yet another victim.
Preventing cyber bulling is a lot like preventing other bullying. Make sure you have open communication with your children. Occasionally check your child’s text messages, IMs and online profiles-my kids are not allowed on MySpace or Facebook. They are on FaithFreaks.com and so am I. I can and do monitor their IMs and chats. They know I am doing it for their protection and they also know that if they don’t allow me to monitor one of their accounts-they lose all Internet/texting privileges. Keep all family computers in open places so that you can see what they are doing at any given time. Teach your child to respect others so that they won’t want to hurt others. In extreme cases of cyber bullying you can lose your ISP and IM account if you are reported too many times-make sure your kids know this.
The National Crime Prevention Slogan for cyber bullying is “Delete Cyber Bullying-Don’t Write It-Don’t Forward It!” Teach your child that when/if they read or hear something that was written about them instead of attacking back-take 5, breathe deep and walk away. Don’t attack back. If your child see’s a friend being attacked remind them that remaining silent when others are being hurt is not acceptable. Tell an adult.
The keys to stopping cyber bullying are BRR.
- Block people who send/forward mean messages
- Refuse to forward messages (bad things won’t happen if you don’t send it to 10 people in the next 5 minutes)
- Report people who cyber bully to adults/teachers etc
Parents, please educate your kids and monitor their online and text messaging behavior. It is not a violation of their freedom, it is your responsibility as a parent to raise respectable kids.