How can I tell if my child is being subjected to cyber bullying?
This question was answered on December 7, 2007. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The recent events of the teen that committed suicide in Missouri as a result of being tormented through a MySpace page illuminates the phenomenon that has been labeled “cyber bullying”.
As it turns out, a neighbor and associated school mates posed as a teenage boy that was interested in the girl, then suddenly turned on her via the MySpace page
While the resulting suicide in this case is not commonplace, the incidence of using technology to bully others has been on the rise.
Our kids are completely immersed in technology these days, with a major form of their communication coming through text messaging, instant messaging and social networking sites.
This constant contact via technology also allows the school yard bully to continue to hound their victims 24 hours a day and invite others to pile on.
This pack mentality combined with the anonymity of the attacks puts a lot of stress on young victims that don’t know how to deal with the situation.
The statistics according to iSafe.org are pretty alarming:
42% of kids have been bullied while online 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once
35% of kids have been threatened online Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once
21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages
58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once
53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once
58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Parents that are completely out of the loop with their child’s technology usage can find it hard to detect when something of this nature may be occurring, but generally speaking, changes to the child’s behavior will accompany the attacks.
Not any of these signs on their own is an indicator, but combined they could warrant a discussion with your child:
Unusually long hours on the computer
Clearing the screen when you enter room
Secretive Internet activity (won’t say who their chatting with)
Getting behind in school work
Lack of appetite, headaches or Stomachaches
Fear of leaving the house, especially to go to school
Appears upset after Internet use
Hesitation to get online
Cries for no apparent reason
A marked change in attitude, dress or habits
Our schools and lawmakers are still trying to catch up with this new form of abuse, so how to report such activity will vary greatly based on your community.
There are many websites that can help if you think your child is a victim of cyber bullying, including www.stopcyberbullying.org, www.cyberbully411.com, www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying and www.iSafe.org.
It’s also vital to discuss with your “screenager” the importance of not participating in any online discussion that serves to demean or belittle others What may seem like a harmless action only serves to amplify the problem for the victim and encourages the instigator to continue.
From a technology standpoint, if you feel the need you can install a program that will track all of the activity that occurs on your child’s computer, including what others are sending them via instant messaging.
Checkout the various tracking software available from sites such as www.spectorsoft.com and www.spytech-web.com as the activity logs that they generate can come in handy if you need to report the problem to a school or law enforcement.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on December 7, 2007