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Cyber Bullying

What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.  By definition, it occurs among young people.  When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyber stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.

Sometimes cyber bullying can be easy to spot — for example, if your child shows you a text message, tweet, or response to a status update on Facebook that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some kids report that a fake account, web page, or online persona has been created with the sole intention to harass and bully.

Cyber bullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, IMs, and emails make it very hard to detect the sender's tone — one person's joke could be another's hurtful insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, text messages, and online posts is rarely accidental.

Effects of Cyber Bullying?
No longer limited to schoolyards or street corners, modern-day bullying can happen at home as well as at school — essentially 24 hours a day. As long as kids have access to a phone, computer, or other device (such as an iTouch), they are at risk.

Severe or chronic cyber bullying can leave victims at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders. In some rare but highly publicized cases, some kids have turned to suicide.

The punishment for cyber bullies can include being suspended from school or kicked off of sports teams. Certain types of cyber bullying also may violate school codes or even anti-discrimination or sexual harassment laws

Signs of Cyber Bullying?
Many kids and teens who are cyber bullied are reluctant to tell a teacher or parent, often because they feel ashamed of the social stigma, or because they fear their computer privileges will be taken away at home.

The signs that a child is being cyber bullied vary, but a few things to look for are:

  • signs of emotional distress or after using the Internet or the phone
  • being very protective or secretive of their digital life
  • withdrawal from friends and activities
  • avoidance of school or group gatherings
  • slipping grades and "acting out in anger at home
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite

How Parents Can Help
If you discover that your child is being cyber bullied, talk to him or her about any experiences you have had in your childhood. This can help your child feel less alone. Let your child know that it's not his or her fault, and that bullying says more about the bully than the victim. Talking to teachers or school administrators also may help, but take cues from your child.

Many schools, school districts, and after-school clubs have established protocols for responding to cyber bullying; these vary by district and state. But before reporting the problem, let your child know that you plan to do so, as he or she could have concerns about "tattling" and might prefer that the problem be handled privately.

Resources:
Kids Health
Stop Cyberbullying
Bullying Awareness & Prevention

Printable Resources:

Bullies: A Serious Problem for Kids