What is it

"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.

Facts About Cyberbullying

  1. Nearly 42% of kids have been bullied online and almost one in four have had it happen more than once.
  2. Among this percentage, being ignored and disrespected were the most common forms of cyber bullying.
  3. Nine out of ten middle school students have had their feelings hurt online.
  4. About 75% have visited a Web site bashing another student.
  5. Four out of ten middle school students have had their password(s) stolen and changed by a bully who then locked them out of their own account or sent communications posing as them.
  6. About 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mails.
  7. The psychological and emotional outcomes of cyber bullying are similar to real-life bullying outcomes, except for the reality that with cyber bullying there is often no escape. School ends at 3 p.m., while the Internet is available all the time.
  8. The primary cyber bullying location where victimizing occurs, at 56%, is in chat rooms.
  9. Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.
  10. About 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than four out of ten say it has happened more than once.
  11. Cyber bullying has increased in recent years. In a national survey of 10-17 year olds, twice as many children indicated they had been victims and perpetrators.
Unfortunately sometimes the bully is hard to catch. For example, a student that builds a webpage remains anonymous and it is likely being hosted on a server in another state or even out of the country. The company hosting the webpage is not inclined to provide the name or remove it since Internet companies typically feel it is not their role to police the Internet.

If you or someone you know is being bullied make sure to keep as much documentation as possible. If it is in the form of e-mail or IM it should be saved and printed. Consult with the school administration to determine what can be done. Also, keep in mind that bullying can take the form of cell phone text messages.

What Parents Can Do?

  • The most critical safeguard is knowing what your kids do on the Internet. Ask them to show you what they do online. Ask to see their profiles. Open communications. Look at their internet applications on their smart phones.
  • Let kids know from the beginning that you are going to keep an eye on their Internet use for their safety. Keep the computer in a public room, with the screen visible. Limit online access to times parents are around.
  • Blocking and monitoring software can be helpful, especially with younger kids who need only a few child-friendly websites. But don’t rely on technical solutions. Young people can get around it as easily as borrowing a cell phone or going to a friend’s house. 
  • Make sure kids know they can come to you for help if they get in over their heads on the Internet. Listen calmly and never react negatively when they are being honest
  • Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else's shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they're less likely to bully someone or passively witness others being bullied. 
  • Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids' online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel which can lead to misunderstandings. If trouble does start, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.
  • Make sure they talk to someone (even if it's not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in such as their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend. Talk to your kid about who they can go to if they need to to talk to someone.
  • Help your kid not to be a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.
  • Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And, if anything does happen, save the evidence.

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