Sue Scheff: Parents Learn More About Cyberbullys

CYBER-BULLIES

Source: Connect with Kids

“What used to be done face to face or at slumber parties or on the telephone are now done through instant messaging and emails and etcetera. And the difference is it doesn’t go away. It can stay there permanently, it can be saved, it can be transmitted.”

– Joanne Max, Ph.D., Psychologist

For the online generation, here are the latest numbers: 91 percent of teens have an email address, 60 percent use instant messaging, 75 percent have a cell phone, 72 percent have a Facebook or Myspace page. And in a recent Harris Poll, one in five teens has been harassed online or by text message.

13-year-old Taylor has lots of online friends and one enemy: a girl who posted a web log making fun of Taylor and other kids.

“She was mostly calling everyone whores and sluts and ho’s,” says Taylor.

Taylor found out thru the grapevine at school that the girl was a classmate.

“She wrote down all the people’s names that she didn’t like, or didn’t care for, and she wrote something mean about them for every name,” she says.

According to a recent Harris Poll of over 600 teens, 20 percent say they’ve been harassed or threatened on the web or by text message.

“The cattiness, or cliquishness of yesteryear has now transitioned to the discriminatory behaviors that occur on web sites or blogs or chat rooms,” says Psychologist Joanne Max, Ph.D.

Experts say one reason online bullying is common is that kids can’t see the reaction of the person they’re writing about, they can’t see the hurt they’ve caused. “Sometimes the perpetrators are not aware of the impact of their statements and the hurtfulness or the fear they can engender in others,” says Dr. Max.

“Like if the 2 people that are in a fight, if they’re online they’ll say things they wouldn’t say in person,” says Taylor.

Experts say parents need to be technologically savvy. They need to learn about blogs, Myspace and instant messaging and ask your child directly about online bullying.

“Certainly an open ended question opening dialog like that is very helpful,” says Dr. Max, “The other side of that is also to ask if they’ve ever been part of that kind of conversation.”

Tips for Parents
Bullying in America has become an epidemic. In fact, with the advent of the Internet, bullies don’t even have to have physical contact with your child to torment him/her. Thus, parents are faced with the monumental task of monitoring the activities of children in a world of virtually unlimited sources of information. Although many parents attempt to regulate the access of their children to the Internet, that access is, in fact, nearly ubiquitous. Consider these facts regarding children, technology and the Internet:

Children are increasingly using new technologies in school, at the library, at home and in after-school activities.
Recent studies estimate that nearly 16 million children under the age of 11 are online.
91 percent of teens have an email address
75 percent have a cell phone
72 percent have a Myspace or Facebook page
Because bullying – including online bullying – can be such an emotional issue, experts say it is extremely important to open the lines of communication with your kids. This can include:

Starting to talk with them early.
Initiating conversations.
Creating an open environment.
Communicating your values.
Listening to your child.
Trying to be honest.
Being patient.
Sharing your experiences.

Also, watch for behavioral changes. Children who are suffering from teasing and bullying may try to hide the hurt. They become withdrawn from family and friends, lose interest in hobbies, and may turn to destructive habits like alcohol, drugs and acts of violence.

While bullying, harassment and teasing are unfortunate aspects of childhood, you can help minimize these occurrences by raising non-violent children. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites the following tips for curbing hurtful behavior in your child:

Give your child consistent love and attention. Every child needs a strong, loving relationship with a parent or other adult to feel safe and secure and to develop a sense of trust. Without a steady bond to a caring adult, a child is at risk for becoming hostile, difficult and hard to manage.
Make sure your child is supervised. A child depends on his or her parents and family members for encouragement, protection and support as he or she learns to think for himself or herself. Without proper supervision, your child will not receive the guidance he or she needs. Studies report that unsupervised children often have behavior problems.

Monitor your child’s Internet use. If your child knows you are watching, he or she is less likely to take part in cyber-bullying. Also, encourage him or her to avoid using chat-rooms with violent or derogatory conversations.

Show your child appropriate behaviors by the way you act. Children often learn by example. The behavior, values and attitudes of parents and siblings have a strong influence on them. Be firm with your child about the possible dangers of violent behavior and language. Also, remember to praise your child when he or she solves problems constructively without violence.
Be consistent about rules and discipline. When you make a rule, stick to it. Your child needs structure with clear expectations for his or her behavior. Setting rules and then not enforcing them is confusing and sets up your child to “see what he or she can get away with.”
Try to keep your child from seeing violence in the home or community. Violence in the home can be frightening and harmful to children. A child who has seen violence at home does not always become violent, but he or she may be more likely to try to resolve conflicts with violence.

Try to keep your child from seeing too much violence in the media. Watching a lot of violence on television, in the movies and in video games can lead children to behave aggressively. As a parent, you can control the amount of violence your child sees in the media by limiting television viewing and previewing games, movies, etc., before allowing access to them by your child.
Help your child stand up against violence. Support your child in standing up against violence. Teach him or her to respond with calm but firm words when others insult or threaten another person. Help your child understand that it takes more courage and leadership to resist violence than to go along with it.

References
Kaiser Family Foundation
Talking With Your Kids
British Medical Journal
American Academy of Pediatrics

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