Bully Prevention Awareness Month: Cyberbullying
We all have heard way too many stories about bullying. Many families begin to consider online education because they are looking for a safe place for their children to escape the effects of bullying. The many options available through K12 can be that safe environment for many kids. Bullying has grown into much larger issue than many of us remember. Technology has helped create many new and powerful tools for bullies to use and has created a new form of bullying called “cyber bullying”.
"Cyber bullying" 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. Sometimes, the child may even change roles, going from victim to bully and back again.
Cyber bullying can be done using direct attacks, where messages are sent directly to the victim, or by proxy, when others join in on the act, with or without the accomplice's knowledge. Because cyber bullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, it can be much more damaging.
Everyone wants to know why, but who knows why kids do anything? When it comes to cyber bullying, bullies are often motivated by anger, revenge or frustration. Sometimes they do it for entertainment or out of sheer boredom and have too many tech toys available. Many do it for laughs or to get a reaction and some do it by accident, and send a message to the wrong recipient.
As a victim of bullying, I can remember the damage starting as early as elementary school. From the classroom to dance class, it seemed like it never ended. In middle school, I was allowed to have a web account to chat with friends, and the criticism just intensified.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all" solution where cyber bullying is concerned. Just as motives differ, solutions and responses need to vary depending on the incident.
Parents need to be the trusted source kids can turn to when things go wrong online and offline. What happens is that most children will avoid telling their parents about a cyber-bullying incident fearing they will overreact and only make things worse. Parents need to be supportive during this time. You may be tempted to give the "stick and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you" lecture, but words and cyber-attacks can wound a child easily and have a lasting effect. These attacks follow them into your otherwise safe home and wherever they go online.
Here are seven tips parents can consider to prevent bullying in their own communities:
- Educate your kids about bullying: what it is, the different types, the signs, and the damage it can do, not only to the victim but to them as well.
- Do not tolerate bullying of any kind from your children. If you become aware of your child being a bully, make sure you have instituted clear consequences for their actions.
- Teach your kids to treat others as they expect to be treated.
- Encourage your kids to take a stand against bullying of all kinds.
- Make sure your kids know that their home is a safe place to share any issues.
- Be an active participant in your child’s computer usage – set up parental controls and monitor their activity.
- Ask questions! If you have a sneaking suspicion that something is up – it probably is!
As we are nearing the end of National Bully Prevention month, encourage your family to learn more and take whatever steps they can to prevent bullying in their own communities. We are all different, and all deserve a fair chance.