Cyber Bullying Facts
By: Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.
In today’s schools you don’t see kids getting shoved in lockers or walking around with wedgies as much anymore. That’s not because kids are necessarily getting nicer – there are just more rules that really crack down on physical bullying in school. So instead of physical abuse, bullies are turning to online methods to target their victims. This is called Cyber Bullying – using electronics to belittle and demean their targets, often with scary results. Here are two of the more popular electronic methods of targeting for Cyber Bullies:
Social Sites: Creating a Facebook account is available to anyone with a computer, and so most cyber bullies get their start on the website. It can take two forms. One way that they can harass their victim is by messaging and rude comments. This method is relatively easily deterred by blocking the person, but persistent bullies can make new accounts or persuade others to bully the person.
Stealing their identity: Another method of cyber bullying is when the bully creates a fake Facebook profile for the victim and then fills it with embarrassing statuses and crude photos and invites the victim’s friends to connect with the account. This can take a crueler turn than the previous method. In one instance, a Florida teen was scandalized by two classmates who created a fake Facebook account for her. They then superimposed portraits of her onto nude photos and wrote lewd comments all over the page. The victim’s family asked Facebook to take it down, but by the time they did, the page had over 180 friends. The bullies said that it was all a joke, and that “nobody likes her anyway.”
Some staggering facts you should know:
So how do you prevent cyber bullying? Open communication, education and setting up boundaries for your kids on the internet. One can see it can spiral out of control, and has even led to kids taking their own lives. Fortunately, it can be stopped before it does that much damage. Some conversation starters:
Hold Hands When Crossing the Street: You wouldn’t let your child learn to navigate a city on their own without teaching them the ropes beforehand. As your kids are younger and beginning to explore the internet, remember that they are heading into a world that neither of you may know much about. Don’t be ignorant of the world that your kids live in. Take the time to find out for yourself how the internet works and where dangers can come from. Learn the rules for yourself like “don’t click on that, it’s an ad,” and “Don’t give away personal information to places that don’t need it.” Then make sure your kids understand those rules and why. And don’t be afraid to learn with them – just remember that you’re there to keep them safe.
Listen to the Babysitter: Programs like NetNanny will allow you to set parental filters for your children’s Internet access, and can give you detailed reports of how and when your child is accessing the internet. To help your kids to understand the filters better, you can explain it like an online babysitter – it enforces the rules while you’re not around.
But just like with a real babysitter, your kids will eventually outgrow it. And if they’re interested in computers, let’s be real here – they’re going to find a way around it. If you start to see signs of this, you should uninstall the program and just talk with your kids. Absolutely none of these methods will do anything if your kids don’t learn for themselves. As your kids grow older and start to become more independent, so will their internet activities. And you shouldn’t try and control them – you should help your kids become responsible citizens in every area of their lives.