Cyber bullying is a term that is used to describe when children are being threatened, teased, tormented, humiliated, harassed, embarrassed or targeted by one or more children through the use of the internet, mobile phones and other digital technologies. It is referred to as cyber bullying when there is instigation by one minor against another. When an adult is involved with the harassment it is referred to as cyber stalking or cyber harassment. Adults that try to lure children into a meeting offline, it is called sexual exploitation or sexual predator luring. Occasionally a minor will use the internet to offer another child for sex to a sexual predator, this is still considered cyber bulling when the initiation is done by a minor.
Cyber Bullying is Serious
There are several methods of cyber bullying and the bully may change roles going from the bully to the victim and back again. Cyber bullying is a serious matter, many children have performed violent acts as a result of bullying, including committing suicide as a result of being cyber bullied and in some situations, and children have killed other children as a result of being bullied. In most situations, cyber bullying is not a one-time incident, unless the first treat becomes serious enough to cause bodily harm or death. Children know what cyber bullying is when they see it, but many parents are initially more concerned about the explicit language used as opposed to the embarrassment and hurtfulness resulting from the post or text.
Preventing Cyber Bullying
Cyber safety is important and one of the first steps in preventing cyber bullying is for parents to understand that their child may be both a cyber bully and a victim. It is often difficult for parents and caregivers to recognize that a child is a bully or being bullied. Parents have obligations and therefore cannot monitor everything their children are doing online, however, there are some steps that a victim or a parent can do in an effort to prevent cyber bullying.
- Talking to children about cyber safety may seem like common sense, but it is one of the most effective forms of prevention. When online, everyone is a stranger and children should never accept anything or talk to a stranger. Children must be taught that it is easy for someone to hide behind a mask when online. Keep in mind that the 14 year old kid you are talking to may not actually be another kid, but instead a predator pretending to be someone your age just to earn your trust.
- Do a Google search to find out if there are any inappropriate pictures, posts or other information about you. By doing a few different searches using “your name” images or “your name” news, you will be able to locate content that may have been posted without your knowledge.
- Utilize the privacy settings on all of the websites you use, especially social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Social networking sites have adjustable settings so you can choose who sees your posts and personal information. Check these settings on a regular basis to make sure policies weren’t changed which interfered with your settings.
- Personal information must remain personal. Do not give out any details that may identify you to others, including school name, address, phone number, credit card number or passwords. Your passwords are used for a reason and sharing this information with friends is the same as inviting someone to invade your privacy. Parents should know their children’s passwords for every site they visit, including their email.
- Think before posting. The internet is a public domain and anything that you put out there, will never be completely erased. Even if you are using email or a personal text, do not let anyone know embarrassing or sensitive secrets that you do not want anyone else to know.
- Speak up. If you know someone who is a cyber bully, call them on it, explain how their actions are hurtful to others and if they continue, tell an adult. If you or one of your friends is being cyber bullied, do not turn the other way. If it is your friend, talk to them about the situation and encourage them to talk to an adult about it. Sometimes, just giving your support to someone who is being cyber bullied is enough for them to overcome the situation.