The neighborhood bully isn’t lurking on the playground anymore. Now cyberbullies threaten their classmates online. Instead of stealing their victims’ lunch money, they rob them of their self-esteem and damage their reputations.
Has your child become withdrawn? Does he avoid school, bring home bad grades and steer clear of his friends? There could be hundreds of reasons why, but if you notice that he’s upset after spending time on the Internet, “cyberbullying” could be the cause.
In a 2004 survey of 1,566 children in grades four through eight, more than half of them said they’d been harassed or bullied online. Most had not told their parents.
Cyberbullying takes place in chat rooms, through e-mails, on Web sites and in instant messages. The emotional toll it takes on teens can be severe. Some situations have even ended in suicide.
Kids can open numerous e-mail or instant messaging accounts, then bombard their victims with insulting messages. They can create false identities so their victims don’t know who the messages are from.
Types of cyberbullying
- Sending cruel, vicious messages
- Threatening violence toward someone
- Taking photos of a classmate in the locker room and sending the photos to others
- Posting pictures of various classmates online and asking others to rate which of them they dislike the most
- Creating Web sites that have pictures, jokes, etc. that ridicule others
- Getting into angry, rude arguments
- Spreading false rumors about someone
- Circulating intimate or private information about someone
- Contacting the victim online while posing as someone else, getting private or embarrassing information from the victim, then posting it online to damage the victim’s reputation
- Excluding someone from an online group
Many teens think they are invisible on the Internet and won’t get caught. They think bullying is a game, and don’t realize the emotional harm they may be doing to their victims. Victims may be afraid to tell their parents, especially if intimate information about them has been circulated. These types of vicious online activities may contribute to teen suicide and violence.
Tips for protecting your child online
- Tell your child to never post personal information on the Internet.
- Insist that your school have a policy addressing in-school bullying.
- Encourage friendships with teens your child can trust.
- If you aren’t present, teach your child to tell an adult about the bullying and not to give up until the adult takes action.
- Tell your child not to open a bully’s messages.
- Have your child block any offensive messages that take place in a chat room or instant message.
Things to consider if your child is being harassed online
- Save all evidence.
- If you can’t identify the bully, ask your Internet service provider for help. Most of them have rules against Internet abuse.
- Consider sending a certified letter to the bully’s parents and include copies of all messages. If the harassment continues, contact a lawyer or law enforcement to discuss your options.
- Contact the school. If the bullying is taking place on school computers, the school can take action.
- If your child is being threatened, call the police. This includes bullying based on bias or hate, and any form of sexual exploitation.