Children today have unprecedented access to the internet. Whether internet access comes via the computer, phone, or other technological devices, keeping children safe from the many dangers of the internet can seem impossible. One of these dangers is known as cyber bullying. Studies have shown that nearly 42% of kids have been bullied in the online environment. To fully understand the dangers of cyber bullying and how it can affect children, one must be knowledgeable of the facts that surround the crime. Getting the word out about how prevalent the problem is and teaching parents how to use internet control as a method of protection, will help combat the problem.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying is bullying that takes place online or through text messaging. Many people have the misconception that cyberbullying can only take place on a computer. Like real life bullying, cyber bullying often knows no boundaries and has extended far beyond having access to a computer. The popular website dosomething.org states that “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.” The intent of cyber bullying is to hurt someone emotionally and the majority of the time, it works. It becomes a constant nuisance in the minds of victims and can have a devastating impact. Recent stories in the news prove that victims of cyber bullying will often go to the extreme to deal with the pain that is caused from being humiliated publicly on social networking sites or through text messaging. Cyber bullying takes such an emotional toll on the victim that for some, suicide seems to be the only way out. The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyber bullying as the following:
- Sending personal or embarrassing information about a particular person to others using different means of technology
- Sending threatening text messages or emails
- Posing as someone else online with intent to embarrass
- Posting untrue rumors or making accusations on public social networking sites
Signs that Your Child is being Cyber Bullied
Some of the classic signs of cyber bullying are the same as those seen in a child who has been physically bullied at school, on the playground, or in some other public location. The New York State Division of Justice Services lists the following as warning signs that can alert parents to potential cyber bullying.
Children who are cyber bullied:
- May withdraw themselves from family and friends.
- Avoid using the internet.
- Seem stressed out or flustered when receiving text messages or emails.
- Have an increase in sadness or frustration.
- Have poor eating and sleeping patterns.
- Unwilling to attend school events or activities.
Children will often deal with the effects of cyber bullying differently. Parents must be coached to recognize the potential warning signs, and seek help once the problem is identified.
What Can Parents Do?
Combating the problem of cyber bullying must be a collaborative effort between parents, law enforcement, and those who have a willingness to put a stop to it by providing valuable tools for parents. Ultimately, however, the responsibility falls within the hands of parents. The Kids @ Facebook survey completed by MinorMonitor found that 74% of parents are worried about their children’s safety on the social networking site Facebook. 41% had a particular concern about cyber bullying. This proves that parents are aware of the true dangers that exist. Unfortunately, some of the solutions parents think will solve the problems, do not. Many parents believe that just by “friending” their child on websites like Facebook will help deter or reduce the dangers that surround it. The truth is, however, that kids are often smarter than their parents when it comes to this and quickly learn how to “hide” information with a click of a button. The key now is educating parent and providing them with the tools that they need to help their children stay safe while using the internet and websites such as Facebook. Listed below are useful tips for parents to help combat the problem of cyber bullying.
- Limit time spent on these social networking sites. This can be a challenge. Children today have more access than ever to the internet. While limiting time may seem impossible, parents should be encouraged to set rules and guidelines about the amount of time spent on the internet. The more time a child spends on the internet, the greater his or her chances of being a victim of cyber bullying or other internet crimes.
- Parental control software and websites geared towards protecting children as they use the internet. Both of these suggestions can be valuable tools for parents. Parental control software allows parents to set time limits, restrict websites, and even gives daily reports on the user’s online activities. A relatively newer but more efficient solution to help parents combat the dangers of the internet is websites created specifically for that purpose. These websites, such as minormonitor help parents monitor activities on popular social networking sites such as Facebook. An added benefit of these websites it that they target all of the dangers that children face when they have access to the site such as exposure to sexual predators and revealing too much personal information.
- Talk to children. If parents are going to allow their children to access the internet, they must keep open lines of communication. Passwords should never be private and parents should receive constant updates as to what their children are doing. While some children may see this as an invasion of privacy, the dangers of the internet call for invasive precautionary measures. Parents should talk to children about their activities, know friends and acquaintances they are socializing with on a daily basis, and be aware of any problems that arise. As with many things, communication is the key to unveiling potential dangers that target children as they use the internet.
A Call To Action
The statistics are alarming. Cyber bullying is a global problem that children will face on a day to day basis. With social networking becoming increasingly popular, the problem is only going to continue to grow. Parents, educators, law enforcement and other helpful agencies must all ban together to help children realize the dangers of the internet. Beginning with parental controls of the internet, there are many helpful ways to lessen the effects of cyber bullying on children. Getting the word out about cyber bullying, providing parents and educators with useful tools to combat it, and taking a stand against the problem will help children and their parents have a peace of mind and escape from the many dangers of the internet.
Terms Associated with Cyber bullying
Cyber stalking, Internet bullying, Cyberbullying, virtual harassment, cyberbullying.