What if Cyber bullying happened to your child, would you be prepared to deal with the ramifications of this heinous offense against your teenager? Cyber Bullying occurs in most adolescents’ lives, whether they are the victim, the harasser, or by-stander. This blog is to create awareness and empower you to take a stance. Just to let you know, over 50% of kids that have experienced Cyber Bullying, which is coercion, intimidation, threats, and humiliation have not told their parents. Therefore, it is your responsibility to engage your child in daily conversations to learn what is going on at school and at home. I cannot promise that ‘Proper Protocol’ will prevent this online exploitative bullying, yet if this does happen to your child, you will know what signs to look for, thereby empowering You and Your child.
Cyber Bullying wears many masks. It can be in the form of sending text-messages that are inappropriate in nature, or very frequent. If you notice that your child is constantly looking at his/her cell phone, you may want to monitor the content. Or, if you notice that every time you enter the room or walk pass your child on the computer and he/she logs off or close the page, he/she may be the harasser. Cyber Bullying is commonly used in chat rooms, social media websites, and e-mails. First of all, if your child is visiting chat rooms and chatting with people she/he does not know, you want to make sure they do not divulge any personal information. This information may be the color of their lacrosse uniform, the time you get home from work, or pictures of themselves. We all are fascinated with meeting new people, and the Internet is a tool that can informally introduce them to people from all over the world. This is actually pretty cool, but you have to remind your child, that not everyone is trustworthy and sane. Inform them that they may think they are communicating with someone that share common interests like, sports, age, and gender, but everyone is not honest. Never ever give too much information to someone. Make sure that your child is aware that this person could potentially come to your home, school, or be a spectator their lacrosse games.
Social media websites are another tool that may be used to Cyber Bully your child. Facebook and MySpace are two popular websites that are used by many people around the world. Whether, you use these sites to locate a long-lost love, old friends, or network with professionals, these websites can be extremely useful. In contrast, social media networking has the possibility of being very dangerous. Some children create fictional screen names in order to harass other students. In 2006, a student set up a fake screen name and created a poll about a classmate. This poll was for the entire student body to discuss how much they hated this particular female student. As an adult, one can only imagine the psychological impact this had on that middle school kid. Do you remember all of the emotions you had as a teenager? From puberty, body image, to clothes, and acne, you were probably a hormonal mess. Inevitably, we all grew out of this torment of adolescence, yet can you imagine how difficult it would be for this girl to overcome the emotional stress of body image, puberty, and boys from Cyber Bullying? Another tactic that may be used to Cyber Bully your child is the posting of inappropriate pictures, personal phone conversations that may have secretly been recorded, and displaying personal correspondence from one person to the next via e-mail. The intention of posting such information is to humiliate someone, which is Cyber bullying.
Now that you are familiar with the various tactics of Cyber Bullying, some of the proper protocols of prevention are to place the computer in a common area. Now a days, teens have laptops and will hibernate in their rooms for hours, as parents, you have to monitor their activity. There is software available that will give you updates on what sites your child is visiting, while you may be at work. This software is an excellent tool for you to monitor all activity on your child’s computer. You will receive email alerts every time your child enters a chat room, type a web address, or send an e-mail. However, it is imperative to have an open and honest relationship with your child. Be curious and conscience about the ways in which your child may be a victim, harasser, or by-stander of Cyber Bullying. If they are a victim, report it the abuse to school authorities immediately, if they are the harasser, find out who was the victim, set up a meeting with the parents and school officials, and get to the root of the problem. If your child has expressed to you that they know someone who is either the harasser or victim, contact the school and or parents to discuss the matter. There is no easy fix to this horrendous issue, but awareness is the first step.
Signs of a Victim
1. Unexpectedly stops using the computer
2. Appears nervous when an Instant Message, text, or e-mail
3. Becomes abnormally withdrawn around friends or family
4. Child’s grades are dropping
5. Change in eating habits
6. Is emotionally distant
7. Becomes uneasy or doesn’t want to go to school
8. Avoids discussions about what they are doing on their computer
9. Quickly switches screens or closes programs when you walk by
or enter the room
Signs of a Harasser
1. Uses the computer all of the time
2. Is evasive when asked about what they are doing online
3. Quickly switches screens or closes programs when you
walk by or enter the room
4. Laughs excessively when using the computer
5. Avoids discussions about what they are doing on their
6. Uses multiple online accounts or accounts that aren’t theirs
Keep an open line of communication with your child and watch to see if there is a change in their behavior. If it does, talk to them and find out what’s bothering them.