|What's On (line)?
by SARA AHMAD
Find out what to do if cyberbullying has become part of your child's life
Kids and teens today start playing games online and sending texts on their cell phones at an early age. Even sending email or leaving a voice mail seems "so old-school" to them. Their knowledge of the digital world can be intimidating, but if parents stay involved in their kids online world, just as you do in their real world, you can help protect your kids from online dangers. Here are some suggestions on what to do if online bullying has become part of your child's life.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.
Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot – for example, if your child shows you a text message, tweet, or response to a status update on Facebook that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some kids report that a fake account, web page, or online persona has been created with the sole intention to harass and bully.
Effects Of Cyberbullying
Its efferts are no longer limited to schoolyards or street corners, modern-day bullying can happen at home as well as at school — essentially 24 hours a day. As long as kids have access to a phone, computer, or such other devices, they are at risk. Severe or chronic cyberbullying can leave victims at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders. In some rare but highly publicised cases, some kids have turned to suicide.
Signs Of Cyberbullying
Many kids and teens who are cyberbullied are reluctant to tell a teacher or parent, often because they feel ashamed of the social stigma, or because they fear their computer privileges will be taken away at home. The signs that a child is being cyberbullied vary, but a few things to look for are:
· signs of emotional distress during or after using the Internet or the phone
· being very protective or secretive of their digital life
· withdrawal from friends and activities
· avoidance of school or group gatherings
· slipping grades and "acting out" in anger at home
· changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite
How Parents Can Help
If you discover that your child is being cyberbullied, talk to him or her about any experiences you have had in your childhood. This can help your child feel less alone. Let your child know that it's not his or her fault, and that bullying says more about the bully than the victim. Talking to teachers or school administrators also may help, but take cues from your child.
But before reporting the problem, let your child know that you plan to do so, as he or she could have concerns about "tattling" and might prefer that the problem be handled privately.
Other Measures To Try:
· Block the bully. Most devices have settings that allow you to electronically block emails, IMs, or text messages from specific people.
· Limit access to technology. Although it's hurtful, many kids who are bullied can't resist the temptation to check websites or phones to see if there are new messages.
· Keep the computer in a public place in the house (no laptops in children's bedrooms, for example) and limit the use of cell phones and games. Most websites and phones provide the option for parental controls, which provide parents with access to their children's messages and online life.
· Know your kids' online world. Check their postings and the sites kids visit, and be aware of how they spend their time online. Talk to them about the importance of privacy and why it's a bad idea to share personal information online, even with friends. Encourage them to safeguard passwords. Write up cell phone and social media contracts that you are willing to enforce.
· If your son or daughter agrees, you may also arrange for mediation with a therapist or counselor at school who can work with your child and/or the bully.