A large number of tweens have phones and social media accounts and as a result, cyberbullying is an issue impacting a large number of tweens. Please welcome today's guest poster Kelly Martin to explain exactly what online bullying involves and what both parents and lawmakers can do about it.Kelly is a writer and stay-at-home mom living in Portland, Oregon.
It used to be that a bully would have to catch you to make your life miserable. Today’s bullies, however, have a new weapon for use in intimidation – the Internet. With chatrooms, instant messaging and social media ever-present pieces of the contemporary communication puzzle, bullies can inflict harm in new ways and make it harder for their victims to escape taunts. Whether your Internet connection is simply part of your cable tv options or a broadband connection from your satellite provider, it is important for you to consider the potential of cyberbullying and actively work to prevent your child from falling victim to this potentially damaging form of abuse.
What is Cyberbullying?
The Montana Department of Justice defines cyberbullying as intentional harm inflicted through electronic devices. For behavior to be considered cyberbullying, it must be willful or intentional. There must also be repetition of the behavior, not one isolated incident.
How often does this happen? More often than concerned adults would like to believe. DoSomething.org reports that 43 percent of kids say they have been bullied online. Some 70 percent of surveyed students admit to seeing bullying take place online. The harm inflicted by cyberbullies can be more than purely emotional, too. In some cases, the victims find the torment so severe that they inflict harm on themselves or even end their own lives.
What Can be Done to Prevent it?
Preventing cyberbullying isn’t easy. To reduce the frequency with which children and teens suffer online attacks, parents and even teens themselves must be vigilant. Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., of the Cyberbullying Research Center, recommend parents set clear rules for interactions, both online and face-to-face. They also suggest these parents actively monitor online activity. Parents who catch their children engaging in unacceptable behavior may be able to prevent their children from being bullied by making them sign Internet use contacts, which clearly outline appropriate online conduct.
Teens and children can play an active role in combating cyberbullying, too. Adults should encourage teens and kids to speak up if they witness bullying. By standing up for bully victims, these youngsters can reduce the impact bullies have.
What are Lawmakers Doing About it?
The severity of cyberbullying nationwide has led many lawmakers to step in and combat the problem. After the suicides of several victims, at least five states have attempted to implement laws punishing those convicted of cyberbullying, USA Today reported.
The Internet is a valuable tool, but no child should be fearful of logging on and worrying that a hurtful message is lurking. As parents, lawmakers and other stakeholders continue to determine how to best combat this problem, it behooves everyone to educate themselves on this growing problem. By better understanding the problem, you can play an active role in reducing the prevalence of online attacks.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: What parents must do to protect children from cyberbullying, which gives parents 13 action points, including browse your internet history, Google your child(ren)'s name(s), and printing out evidence of any cyberbullying and reporting it.
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