Cyber Bullying Tips for Families

Cyberbullying is on the rise! Bullying used to be in the schoolyard, but now, with greater use of the Internet for personal reasons such as email, texting on cell phones, instant messaging, and the use of social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook, your child is more likely to meet a bully online. There are even hurtful sites posted on the Internet that attack others who are perceived as different or that attack someone and try to get others involved. For example, there may be a site about voting for a fat girl, etc.

Why are there more reported instances of cyberbullying? The use of the Internet is often anonymous. Some boys and girls may find it an easy way to send hurtful, harmful messages or forward messages that are hurtful to others. And, the same child can remain anonymous through all of this activity.

Cyberbullying is a very real threat. According to one study, “It’s found that as many as 34 percent of children have been bullied online. And about 16 percent say they are targeted regularly.”*

How can you as a parent help prevent your child from becoming a victim of cyberbullying? It is important that you talk to your child about what he or she is doing on the Internet and in cyberspace. Talk about the importance of being kind and respectful to others online. Ask them if they are getting along with others and how things are going. Get familiar with the sites they may talk about – find out what is going on!

Sometimes, all it takes is to let your child know how important it is to speak out. Tell your child it is okay to stand up for what is right and not condone the bullying of either themselves or others.

Other suggested tips: Keep the computer in a public place where the family gathers. Just as you want to know who your child’s friends are, you should also know your child’s online habits and who his or her cyber friends are.

Set guidelines for monitoring computer use, phone, etc., and stick to those guidelines.

Let your child know it is important to limit the availability of personal information on the Internet, including information about hobbies, habits, etc. The more information put out into cyberspace, the more likely that a bully may obtain that information and use it.

If your child does get cyberbullied, don’t react to the bully! Bullies thrive on responses, and the situation may escalate.

Block the Bully! You may be able to do this on social networking sites or stop unwanted emails by simply changing your email account. Notify the site that host messages are being posted by a cyberbully.

Document any harassing online activity. Keep a record of cyberbullying activities, such as dates, times, etc., and keep printouts of these activities.

Report the cyber bullying! If the situation has escalated to harassment, contact the local authorities. Don’t hesitate. Many times these bullies have a pattern of repeated offenses and may have more than one victim!

For further information, take a look at these sites:

* "How to Handle Cyberbullying - Tips and Advice for Parents and Families - The Kim Komando Radio Show." The Kim Komando Show - Free Tips, Downloads, Reviews, Software and Advice for Your Digital Lifestyle. 27 Dec. 2008. Web. 04 Mar. 2010.