What works when dealing with traditional bullying is often not realistic when handling cyberbullying. A parent can sometimes suggest that their child not frequent certain places where the bully would be. The fact that technology is so integrated into our daily lives makes it virtually impossible to tell a child to simply turn off the phone or stay off the computer.
If a child is dealing with cyberbullying, email addresses and cell phone numbers should be changed and only given to those individuals the parents are sure can be trusted. If a child receives a threatening message of any sort make sure the child does not respond. As painful as it may be to keep the message, a parent should not delete any derogatory messages. These can be used as evidence if the bullying persists.
One of the worst forms of cyberbully is when the bully manages to take over the child’s account and pretends to be that child. By the time the situation has been remedied, the child’s reputation may have been severely damaged online. Negative content online can even lead to future difficulty getting into college or obtaining a job. There are some precautions parents can take to prevent this sort of thing from happening and to promote general cyber safety.
Encourage children to keep as much personal information as possible out of social networks. Social security number, middle names, and home addresses and phone numbers should never be given online. Help children create usual passwords that can’t easily be figured out. Too many people create passwords out of a pet’s name, boyfriend’s names, and other aspects of their lives that are well known to others. Parents should keep their computer in a central location where an adult can supervise at all times. There are a variety of monitoring devices that can be installed on a computer to track where online a child is going. Some parents hesitate to participate in what they consider spying, but considering how serious cyberbullying has become, protecting children must be our priority.
If parents have found out that their child is the bully the first step is to speak with the child. The child must be aware that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. And there must be consequences for the action. Limiting computer and phone use is the first step. Making amends, if possible, is the next step. For some victims, facing their bully is not in their best interest. Writing a letter of apology is one possible solution. If having any contact with the person being bullied is not a good idea, encouraging the child to do some sort of volunteer work in the community or contributing part of a paycheck or allowance to an anti-bully group may be a good idea.
As cyberbullying becomes more prevalent there has been an increase in legal consequences as well. Several laws regarding cyberbullying and cyberstalking have been passed, and authorities have become better trained in dealing with these problems. While there are still some blurry areas regarding what kinds of actions are considered illegal, there are a few areas that are cut and dried. Parents should always contact police if the bullying involves any sort of child pornography. Extortion or threats of violence should be reported to authorities as well.
Legal action against a bully is sometimes handled in civil court, other times criminal charges may be filed. When defamation of character and emotional distress is involved often times civil suits are filed. Criminal charges could be filed if the accused has hacked into an online account and impersonated another individual. Depending on the situation, a person could be charged with identity theft or stalking. While there are currently no federal laws specifically dealing with cyberbullying, many states have enacted their own laws. Laws vary from state to state, making it imperative that parents research what the laws are in the county and state where they live. Schools are also being given more authority to deal with cyberbullying incidents for the protection of the students. Schools can even intervene if the bullying occurred off campus if they can show it has disrupted the educational process.