Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is Cyberbullying? What Can Be Done About It?

Bullying in school is something that has gone on since, well, since schools existed. Most of us can think of someone we knew who was bullied growing up, and you may have been bullied yourself. I certainly was. As bad as it was for us when we were kids, imagine how it would have been had the bullies had things such as the internet, cell phones and computers at their disposal! That is what our kids are dealing with now. Bullies have always been difficult to deal with, but being able to use technology to spread rumors and send nasty messages with relative anonymity makes it that much worse. This is called cyberbullying, and it happens all the time. Hopefully your child doesn't have to deal with this but, if it does happen, here are some ways s/he can deal with it.
  • Tell them to stop. This might seem trite, but it's important because text-based mediums such as instant messages don't have the same non-verbal cues (tones of voice, facial expressions, etc) that face-to-face conversations do. For this reason, something that was meant as a joke can be taken as something worse. Someone who is deliberately harassing someone knows what they are doing but, in some cases, the person really didn't mean any harm. They simply did not know that their comment would come off the way it did. By telling the person to stop, not only will you be standing up for yourself or someone else, you will be making clear what is and what is not acceptable to say.
  • Tell someone. I know it's not fun to talk about things like this because you probably don't want to think about it any more than you have to, but don't keep it to yourself. Tell a friend, teacher, parent or other trusted adult. That way, you'll have someone to help you if you need it. Also, if the bullying is happening using school resources, I'm sure your teacher or principal would want to know. You might feel like a 'tattle-tale', but think about it this way-chances are, you are not the only or the last person the bully will target. If something can be done to stop them, you'd be saving other people needless grief.
  • Never retaliate. That's just going to keep the cycle going.
  • Save the evidence. If someone is being harassed, one of the best things they can do is keep copies and screen shots-electronically or 'hard copies'-of what's being said. That way, you'll have solid proof if you need it.
  • Block the bully, and report them to the site administrator. Most reputable forums, chatrooms or instant messengers have some way to keep unwanted messages from coming through. In addition, there is often a way for you to report harassment to the person or people in charge of the site. Don't be afraid to use them! Remember, it's not 'running away' to block someone who continually bothers you.
Hopefully bullying will never get this far, but-
  • Call the cops! If you have reason to think that your or someone else's safety is at risk, let the authorities know. Several cities and states are passing laws specifically dealing with harassment that happens online. Just like I mentioned above, telling the authorities about something that is happening can help them handle and prevent it in the future.
Hopefully now you have an idea as to what advice to give your child if s/he is ever faced with cyberbullying. In a future article, I will tell you how you can prevent it from happening to begin with. For more information in the form of a cute cartoon, visit

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