Cyberbullying

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Young people are using the Internet more than ever and most have Internet access from home. For many children, the Internet isn't simply a convenient way to research or a fun afterschool activity - it's a big part of their social life. Emailing and chatting with friends are children's most common online activities, after studying and playing games. But like many other social situations, some kids bully other kids online.

Cyberbullying is similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones. Cyberbullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, and even anonymous users, but most often they do know their victims.

Some examples of ways kids bully online are:

  • Sending someone mean or threatening emails, instant messages, or text messages.
  • Excluding someone from an instant messenger buddy list or blocking their email for no reason.
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.
  • Breaking into someone's email or instant message account to send cruel or untrue messages while posing as that person.
  • Creating websites to make fun of another person such as a classmate or teacher.
  • Using websites to rate peers as prettiest, ugliest, etc.

Both boys and girls sometimes bully online and just as in face-to-face bullying, tend to do so in different ways. Boys more commonly bully by sending messages of a sexual nature or by threatening to fight or hurt someone. Girls more often bully by spreading rumors, sending messages that make fun of someone or exclude other. They also tell secretS.

The Effects of Cyberbullying

Victims of cyberbullying may experience many of the same effects as children who are bullied in person, such as a drop in grades, low self-esteem, a change in interests, or depression. However cyberbullying can seem more extreme to its victims because of several factors:

  • Occurs in children's home. Being bullied at home can take away the place children feel most safe.
  • Can be harsher. Often kids say things online that they wouldn't say in person, mainly because they can't see the other person's reaction.
  • Far reaching. Kids can send emails making fun of someone to their entire class or school with a few clicks, or post them on a website for the whole world to see.
  • Anonymity. Cyberbullies often hide behind screen names and email addresses that don't identify who they are. Not knowing who is responsible for bullying messages can add to a victim's insecurity.
  • May seem inescapable. It may seem easy to get away from a cyberbully-just get offline-but for some kids not going online takes away one of the major places they socialize.

Cyberbullying can be a complicated issue, especially for adults who are not as familiar with using the Internet, instant messenger, or chat rooms as kids. But like more typical forms of bullying, it can be prevented when kids know how to protect themselves and parents are available to help.

For more information on cyberbullying, visit Wired Safety.

What Parents Can Do To Stop Cyberbullying

Parents can help stop cyberbullying. You can start by talking to kids about the issue and teaching them the rules below that will help prevent cyberbullying from happening to them or someone they know.

What Kids Need to Know:

  • Never give out personal information online, whether in instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs, or personal websites.
  • Never tell anyone but your parents your password, even friends.
  • If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don't respond. Save it or print it out and show it to an adult.
  • Never open emails from someone you don't know or from someone you know is a bully.
  • Don't put anything online that you wouldn't want your classmates to see, even in email.
  • Don't send messages when you're angry. Before clicking "send," ask yourself how you would feel if received the message.
  • Help kids who are bullied online by not joining in and showing bullying messages to an adult.
  • Always be as polite online as you are in person.

Since most cyberbullying takes place at home, it's important that parents know about cyberbullying and that they get involved in preventing it. Just like parents help their kids avoid inappropriate websites, they can protect them from cyberbullying.

What Parents Can Do

  • Keep your home computer is a busy area of your house.
  • Set up email and chat accounts with your children. Make sure that you know their screen names and passwords and that they don't include any personal information in their online profiles.
  • Regularly go over their instant messenger "buddy list" with them. Ask who each person is and how your children know him or her.
  • Print this list of commonly used acronyms in instant messenger and chat rooms from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and post it by your computer.
  • Discuss cyberbullying with your children and ask if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.
  • Tell your children that you won't blame them if they are cyberbullied.
  • Emphasize that you won't take away their computer privileges - this is the main reason kids don't tell adults when they are cyberbullied.

If you have any questions about the above information, please call Deputy Costello at (760) 836-1671.