(Editor here: This week our guest author is Michael Kovach with a clear look at an important topic. Thanks Michael!)
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying has been defined by the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry as “the intentional aggressive behavior using an electronic form of contact, over time and repeatedly, against a person that cannot easily defend him or herself.” (Smith, 2008 Cyberbullying: Its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. pg 376). Electronic forms that may be used include: text messaging, social networks like FaceBook or MySpace, emails, web pages and blogs.
Cyber bullying differs from traditional bullying in that the threatening or embarrassing information can reach a wider audience very quickly. With traditional bullying an embarrassing picture may take days or weeks to reach a large number of students. With cyber bullying an embarrassing picture can reach every teenager with a cell phone within hours.
What are the effects on children?
There is not much research out there on the effects of cyber bullying on children. Common responses children and teens may have include: refusal to attend school, anxiety, depression, and even becoming a cyber bully.
What can I do if I my child is a victim of cyber bullying?
It is important for parents to know that some acts of cyber bullying are criminal acts. You and your child do have rights and the law may be able to protect and help put a stop to the threatening or embarrassing communications. Cyber bullying that may be considered criminal include; harassing communications, violent threats, sexual language or photographs (exploitative or pornography), and photographs that are taken in a private place. Parents must check the with their local law enforcement for more detailed information regarding what qualifies as a criminal act.
To prevent and stop cyber bullying parents may do the following:
1. Keep or save the threatening communications as evidence
2. Identify the cyber bully. (If you can not identify the person it is sometimes possible to track the person with help from your service provider)
3. File a complaint with the provider of the electronic medium that was used (eg. A cell phone company may have a policy against certain communication and may be able to take action against the cyber bully)
4. Think about contacting the parent of the cyber bully (although this must be done very carefully). It is recommended that the contact be in written form. It is NOT recommend to meet face to face. It is a good idea to show proof of the cyber bullying. You can never be sure what the other parent’s response will be so you must be cautious.
5. If the cyber bullying appears serious there is always the option of contacting an attorney for legal advice and possible action.
Talk to your children about cyber bullying
Cyber bullying can take many forms and differ in the degree of severity. Many children may not report cyber bullying to their parents, so it is important that you talk to your child about cyber bullying and encourage them to tell you if this occurs. It may be a good idea to have an agreement made before hand that if your child discloses to you that he/she is a victim of cyber bullying that you will not take away his/her electronic devices.
To help prevent cyber bullying and other unwanted cyber communications parents can consider keeping internet devices (including cells phones) out of the child’s bedroom. It is also a good idea to stay involved in what your child searches and visits online and consider software to help monitor your child’s activities. Technology is changing rapidly, as parents it is important to stay up to date on these changes and to set (as you see fit) appropriate boundaries for your child.
Michael Kovach writes blog posts on education degrees and helps moderate a forum that gives advice from teachers.
(Editor here again: There are many resources online for protecting your child against cyber bullies. I’m quite fond of the Cyber Patrol Online Protection that I reviewed in October)
Image courtesy of Chesi- Fotos CC via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who are concerned about bullies.