You can probably remember a time when you were younger that another kid made fun of you. Whether it was an insult, spreading a rumor or some sort of physical confrontation, many of us now look back on the time that we were bullied and see it as a rite of passage or a childish thing that we have long since forgotten. However there are individuals who are still hurt by the bullying that they received as youngsters. Some people continue to be bullied through college and into adulthood. The scary truth of the matter is that as bad as bullying was then, it is a hundred times worse now.
Cyber bullying adds an entirely new painful dimension to making fun of each other. A cyber bully is an individual who distributes insults and harsh words over the Internet. Cyber bullying is far more complex than the rumor spreading that you or I remember. A cyber bully can create and distribute, via e-mail, any slander that they wish to a limitless audience in a manner of seconds. A cyber bully can bully another child at any time of the day by sending offensive, cruel, or demeaning text messages directly to their victim’s cell phone.
Cyber bullying allows an individual to say or share whatever they wish through the Internet without ever disclosing their identity. This anonymity magnifies the problem tenfold as kids see themselves as untouchable and un-punishable when no one has a way of knowing where the bullying is coming from. Kids can pretend to be another individual while they are online. False personal profiles can be created, and personal pictures can be distributed to a mass audience with relative ease. Sometimes cyber bullying goes beyond insults and embarrassment and turns to threats of physical harm.
Even at school cyber bullying is on the rise. Access to the Internet at school and the increase in children owning handheld Internet devices has led to a steady influx in the number of kids becoming victims to this kind of mistreatment. As gadgets become smaller and technology allows for more wireless capabilities, it is predicted that cyber bullying will only become more and more serious of a problem.
Parents need to be involved in teaching their children both that bullying (whether in person or through cyber space) is wrong and that if someone is bullying them, that they need to tell someone they trust about the abuse. Parents are encouraged to spend time with their children online. Parents should know their children’s online “buddies” and what kinds of sites the child visits frequently. Parents need to know if their child has a personal profile and what kind of content is on that profile. Make sure that your children are making wise decisions regarding what personal information they decide to post online. If you choose, there are options for parents who wish to take advantage of software controls that can block and filter content that you want to protect your children from.
Children need to feel comfortable talking to parents about any abusive behavior that they are experiencing. Many times specific websites have precautions and suggestions in place for how to handle such abuse. In the case that physical threats are received, local law enforcement should be notified. Make sure that you have documentation of all online incidents as legal action can be brought against the responsible parties. It may be a lengthy process, and you may feel undereducated, but we all have a responsibility to protect our children and to allow them to feel safe both at home and at school.