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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cyberbullying & Protecting Your Child


In December 2012, almost everyone with an internet connection learned about the tragic suicide of a 16-year-old girl in Florida. Many attribute her suicide as the result of cyberbullying, and rightly so. On a social media site, anonymous posters had called the girl names and suggested she should die, according to media reports. Due to a number of other similar cases, most states are considering adding cyberbullying laws to their already existing anti-bullying laws.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is defined as using an electronic device or social media platform to harass another person. It commonly involves revealing intimate, personal information and/or images.

Legal Responses to Cyberbullying

The laws require schools to take disciplinary action against students who use electronic communication of any kind to bully other students. The policy applies even when the alleged bullying takes place away from school and not during school hours. Although many parents support the laws, some are concerned that such laws infringe on the First Amendment right to free speech.

Anti-cyberbullying laws: When in school, students must follow the school rules. When away from school, students have the same right to free speech as anyone else. If social media is being used for name calling and other forms of harassment, the harassed person can take measures not to see the comments, according to some points of view. School administrators may have a tendency to overact, even confusing humor with what some might perceive as an insult, according to research by CSMonitor.com.

Pro-cyberbullying laws: Some say laws are needed in order to maintain schools as places of learning. The off-campus bullying spills into the school setting, making it a hostile environment. Schools have a responsibility to maintain the well-being of the students by becoming involved in bullying even if that bullying does not occur at school, according to supporters of Cyberbullying laws. Cyberbullying laws must be constructed in order to distinguish it from teenage drama, conflict or just plain rude behavior.

Emotional Damage

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, teenagers particularly suffer severe emotional problems when they are the target of insults and when others reveal intimate information about them. Depression is common, coupled with low self-esteem. Suicide can be the ultimate effect.

Parents are Responding

More than 88 percent of young people report having at least observed cyberbullying on social network sites. Parents are responding to this in different ways. Some parents may not be doing enough to prevent it, while others may be going to extremes.

No matter how much adults try to protect children from this, it is almost impossible to do so. The most successful prevention and intervention is to communicate these issues and stories which highlight the real life, long term effects of online activity. Children have unlimited access to the Internet and TV programming (which helps to promote deviant behavior) through various electronic devices.

Monitor children’s behavior for signs of cyberbullying:
  • Has the child changed their eating and sleeping patterns?
  • Has the child's grades dropped?
  • Has the child's friendships and social interactions changed?

Parents need to keep avenues of communication open and encourage conversations about cyberbullying. It is unrealistic to think we can monitor or “lock up” all devices and access points. Communication and awareness is a much more appropriate approach, and the dialogue should start as soon as your child begins using the internet.

Monitor children’s social media activity:

Many parents demand to know the passwords and user names of their children’s social media accounts and then monitor the accounts. These parents also block users and may contact law enforcement for inappropriate communications. A step further is switching media service providers. Some providers have over 25 channels tailored for children and you can add parental controls to monitor your children's media habits, so your children aren't exposed to inappropriate material that may encourage bullying.

There are now laws against bullying in 49 states. Sixteen states have added cyberbullying to their anti-bullying laws.

Written by Diane Flanagan & Anthony Gonzalez
Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

1 comment:

  1. Very informative article, Diane and Anthony. It's sad that so many kids are being bullied online, which is more or less a medium of escape for them from the offline world. And sometimes offline bullying carries over into the online world. Measures must be taken to stop this somehow! Hopefully, effective communication between the kids and the parents can help in some way...

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