Years ago parents had to worry about their kids getting bullied by other kids while they were at school, at the playground or outside after school. Today the same is true for parents except that there is a new way of bullying in which it often times occurs while their child is sitting in the comfort of their own home.
With all the computers and apps that exist for kids to be online and get in touch with each other, bullying has moved to a new level. This bullying by using some electronic device is called cyber bullying. In 2006 a study reported that one in three children reported that they had been bullied at some point during their use of the internet. This bullying occurs through the use of emails, text messaging and social network sites. In order to address the problem of cyber bullying we need to first make sure we understand what normal conflict between kids is and what is actual bullying.
Just like with adults, you can expect some normal conflict between kids. The question becomes, “When does this conflict become considered bullying and something that needs to be dealt with?”
Bullying has four specific qualities it must meet to be considered bullying:
Has to be Intentional – Children often hurt each other by accident. With bullying, the child intentionally hurts the other child and often times when asked to stop they refuse to.
Hurtful – A behavior, in order to be classified as bullying, has to be hurtful to the recipient. It has to bring some type of harm to the child, whether it be physical, emotional or psychological harm.
Repeated – The behavior cannot have just happened once. Most bullies pick a person that they don’t think will report them and then continue the negative behavior towards them at several points in time.
Unequal Power – The last characteristic is that the balance of power between the two individuals is unequal with the bully wielding more power than the one being bullied.
So what do you do once you have determined that your child is being bullied? The following are some steps you can take to help the situation get better for your child.
Centralize the Computer – Do not let the children have a computer in their room but rather have it located in a centralized spot where you can keep an eye on what is going on. You should be monitoring their online usage. You should have rules about how long they are allowed to use the computer each day and what sites they are able to follow. Use the parental controls that your computer provides.
Learn – Learn how the various social websites and apps work. Know how Myspace, twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the rest of these sites work so that you can periodically review them and see if there is any bullying going on. Ask your child to see their profile page.
Talk – It is important that you and your child talk often about what is going on online. Assure them that they should come to you if something hurts them online. Talk and discuss what acceptable and unacceptable online behavior is.
Build Trust – It is important to build up trust between you and your child so that if someone does start to cyber bully them they will feel comfortable coming to you. What this means is that if they do come to you with a problem, you can’t take the computer away. This will only serve as a way of pushing them away from you; you will lose their trust.
Response – Tell your child not to respond to cyber bullying in any way, shape, or form. Explain to them that this will only fuel the fire. Make sure you make it clear to them that they should not just destroy the note but copy it and put it away for later.
Don’t Over/Under react – You want to give cyber bullying its proper place and in order to do this you should not overreact and blame your child (“I told you that site was no good!”). You also don’t want to under react and tell the child not to let it bother him. Give an appropriate moderate response.
Talk to School Personnel – If it is happening at home there is nothing to stop it from happening at school. Talk to your student’s guidance counselor and make them aware of what is going on and come up with a plan of action.
Call Police – If anyone is physically harmed of if some damage is done to property then call the police and let them handle it.