The Dangers of Cyberbullying

The Dangers of Cyberbullying


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Lauren Nelson: It used to be that bullies were found roaming school hallways or threatening children on playgrounds. Now bullies can be right in your home. threatening your children. They're called cyberbullies. Simply put, cyberbullying is when someone uses interactive technology to send or post texts or messages that are intended to hurt someone else, and the technology they can use includes computers, and many other devices, such as PDAs, cell phones, and video games. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy for cyberbullies to say or do hateful things. These faceless tormentors can bully others without direct contact, and often away from any adult supervision, and since they are anonymous, many online bullies believe they may not face any consequences for their actions. Anyone from the most popular in the class, to the outsider, can be a victim of cyberbullying. It can happen from around the world, and take place 24/7. In many ways, it is far more dangerous and damaging than typical bullying. What do these cyberbullies do exactly? It really is only limited by their imagination. Some send flame mail, which are hostile messages through an instant messaging service or social networking site. Others create online polls to humiliate students in front of a large audience, and still others post provocative pictures, or private messages to public sites without the victim's consent.

Young Woman: My best friend, I mean my ex-best friend took embarrassing photos of me at a slumber party and sent them around to the entire class. It was so humiliating that I wanted to switch schools. I haven't talked to that girl in months.

Lauren Nelson: The same rules you teach your child in the real world apply to the cyberworld. It's important that your children know that they should respect others online. If they wouldn't say it in person, they shouldn't say it online. You also have to be responsible in providing them with the tools they need to keep them safe from cyberbullies. Tell them that they must not share passwords with anyone. A friend today may often be an enemy tomorrow. Once someone knows a password, they can sign on as your child, and send threatening e-mail to someone else posing as your child or they can find ways to destroy your computer or create other problems.

Young Man: Some kid in class told me about a horrible website about me. My photo was on there and pages and pages of hateful comments about me and my family. Why would anyone do this to me?

Lauren Nelson: How can you tell if your child is a victim of cyberbullying? One sign may be that the child stops using the internet all of a sudden. They could also act withdrawn and want to avoid school events or school altogether. The best way to prevent cyberbullying is to stop it before it starts. Get involved and educate your child. You need to constantly reinforce that they should come to you with any concern. If they tell you about a cyberbullying incident remain calm, and don't take their internet privileges away. Many children who have been cyberbullied don't tell anyone for fear that they will lose use their computer or phone privileges.

Young Woman: My friend and I had a huge fight. She knew the password to my phone, stole it from my bag, and sent nasty text messages to a lot of people, who thought the messages were from me. Everyone was yelling at me and some of my friends wouldn't even talk to me. It took me a long time to explain what really happened.

Lauren Nelson: So what do you do if your child is the victim of cyberbullying? Your child should know that they should block communication with a cyberbully. Even if their emotions are high, they should not respond to the hateful message, and just walk away. Bullies thrive on receiving an emotional reaction. Documentation is also important. Print all the materials, so you have physical evidence. You can capture the screenshot of the hateful material on a website or chat room, by using the print screen feature. For e-mails, be sure to save e-mails with the full headers. Headers contain data such as the senders name and e-mail address, and information that can pinpoint the sender's location in the real world. Documentation includes cell phones, too. If bullying involves a cell phone, don't delete the messages. Leave the phone messages as is, so they can be used as evidence, and be sure to record the time and date that the messages were received. You also need to report the incident. If it happened over the computer, report the abuse to your internet service provider or ISP. Many providers have an e-mail address listed under the content page, where you can describe these events. Using this information, your ISP can work to trace the bully right to his or her house. If a student is involved, call the school officials to alert them. The administration may say they have no legal obligation if the bullying is taking place off school property, after school hours. However, they need to be alerted in case further bullying happens while your child is at school. It is also important to notify the local police. Depending on the bully's actions, he or she may have crossed the line. Provide as much information as you can to help them track down the suspect. By reporting the harassment to the appropriate parties, you are stopping it from escalating or having the bully target others. Cyberbullying is a very real issue that is impacting young people around the world at an ever-increasing rate. By educating yourself and your children, you can be prepared if this devastating problem touches your family.