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Cyber bullying-How to Keep Your Child Safe Online

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Cyberbullying. Most of us have heard the term, but not all of us might understand exactly what it entails. Cyberbullying - or “online bullying” - didn’t exist when we were kids. But today, cyberbullying is its own breed of harassment - and the consequences can be severe.

In September, a 12-year-old girl committed suicide after being taunted and bullied by two peers, ages 12 and 14.

According to news sources, Rebecca Sedwick of Lakeland, Fla., killed herself Sept. 9 by jumping off a cement factory tower. Throughout the preceding months, Rebecca had been terrorized by as many as 15 girls who used online message boards and texts to attack and pick on her. According to authorities, one message said she should "drink bleach and die."

Police made arrests after one of the girls posted on Facebook that she had bullied Rebecca and did not care that she had died.

Tragically, this is not an isolated incident. Megan Meier, 13, killed herself in 2006 after bullying through MySpace. In 2010, the world lost Phoebe Prince, 15; Alexis Pilkington, 17; and Tyler Clementi, 18; all to suicide.

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, “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.”

Today, kids use the Internet more than ever before - not only for studying and research, but for a social life. Cell phones and instant messenger allows kids to chat with friends and upload photos, videos, and music. The Internet’s global reach allows kids to be friends with people they have never met face-to-face through games and messaging. This opens the door for cyberbullying to happen to anyone. Perhaps the most important point is that cyberbullying can be stopped. Most cyberbullies think they are anonymous - but through the help of law enforcement or even an online moderator, they can be found and stopped.

Since cyberbullying most commonly occurs at home, parents are the No. 1 defense in protecting their kids and preventing online bullying from occurring. Check out this information and these recommendations from the National Crime Prevention Council:

Examples of Cyberbullying

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.
Pretending they are other people online to trick others.
Spreading lies and rumors about victims.
Sending or forwarding mean text messages.
Posting pictures of victims without their consent.
What Parents Can Do to Keep Kids Safe

Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house.
Set up e-mail 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.
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.
What Can Kids Do To Stay Safe?

Remember that strangers use the Internet - not just friends and family - and they should be treated as such.
Never post or share personal information online (this includes your full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or Social Security number) or your friends’ personal information. Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
Never meet anyone face-to-face whom you only know online.
Talk to your parents about what you do online.
Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult. Save all communication with the cyberbully and talk to a parent, teacher, law enforcement officer, or other adult you trust.
Block communication with the cyberbully.
Report the problem to an Internet service provider or website moderator.

Want to learn more about how to prevent Cyberbullying? Visit StopBullying.gov and the National Crime Prevention Council.

Thank you for reading,

James Sullivan, President & CEO